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Afghan killings tragic but no rush for exits: Obama

world Updated: Mar 13, 2012 08:33 IST

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In the aftermath of killing of 16 Afghans by an American soldier, US President Barack Obama has said that international forces will not "rush for the exits" in Afghanistan.

Denouncing the killings as "heartbreaking" and "tragic", Obama underscored the need of a "responsible way out."

"Obviously, what happened this weekend is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic, and I expressed directly to (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai how the American people feel any time innocent civilians, especially children, are killed and for it to happen in this kind of terrible way I think we all are concerned about," Obama told a KDKA, a local Pittsburgh news channel, in an interview on Monday.

"It's important for us to make sure that we get out in a responsible way, so that we don't end up having to go back in but what we don't want to do is to do it in a way that is just a rush for the exits," Obama said.

Obama, gave a series of interviews on yesterday to local news channels, which were primarily meant to address the issue of energy, but the killing of civilians over the weekend in Kandahar did appear in during the questions from journalists.

On Sunday, an American Army staff sergeant went on a shooting spree and killed 16 civilians, including nine children and three women, in southern Afghanistan.

The shooting marked another low in the ties of the two countries after a wave of deadly protests over burning of Quran.

On Sunday, Obama had called Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and spoke to him on the issue.

"I think it's important for us just to make sure that we are not . .. in Afghanistan longer than we need to be," Obama said in another interview to Denver's KCNC television, an affiliate of CBS news.

Obama underscored that removing such a large number of troops is logistically complicated, and needs to be done "in a responsible way" using the Iraq withdrawal as model.

Doing so, Obama said, will allow the Afghans to "protect their borders and prevent al Qaeda from coming back.

The US President said that he is "determined" to safely bring back the troops.

"It's been a decade, and you know, frankly, now that we've gotten (Osama) bin Laden, now that we've weakened al Qaeda, we're in a stronger position to transition than we would have been two or three years ago," Obama told KDKA.