President Obama speaks in the Rose Garden about a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington —
President Obama said Tuesday that the United States must "responsibly" wind down the war in Afghanistan but did not rule out stepping up the pace of the withdrawal as anti-American sentiment in the country flares.
Obama vowed justice for the victims of a shooting spree by an American soldier in southern Afghanistan, saying his administration will "spare no effort" in conducting a full investigation and following the facts "wherever they lead us."
As he prepares to host British Prime Minister David Cameron beginning later Tuesday, Obama said the two of them will "consult about the way forward" in Afghanistan.
The United States already has a strategy that will phase out the war effort, Obama noted, one that calls for the return of 23,000 troops by the end of this summer. Obama set a goal of a steady withdrawal of troops until the international forces completely turn over responsibility to Afghan officials by the end of 2014, and his advisors are now trying to figure out what that means in actual numbers.
"Meanwhile, we will continue the work of devastating Al Qaeda leadership," Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden Tuesday morning. "I am confident that we can continue the work of meeting our objectives ... responsibly bringing this war to a close."
The debate about the pace of withdrawal involves not only critics of Obama's current plan but also members of his administration, who have been considering the issue for several weeks.
While Obama left the door open for the possibility of a faster drawdown than U.S. military brass prefer, he emphasized that he doesn't want to see a rush for the exits. He twice used the word "responsibly" to describe how he wants the military drawdown to take place.
The United States takes the weekend shooting of 16 Afghan civilians by a deranged gunman "as seriously as if it were our own citizens and our own children who were murdered," Obama said. "It's not who we are as a country and it does not represent our military."
Original source: Obama won't rule out faster U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan