Gingrich: It's time to get out of Afghanistan

(CBS News) Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich this morning called for the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

His statement on CBS News' "Face the Nation" came as news broke this morning of a U.S. soldier opening fire and killing at least 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children, in Kandahar province.

In response to a question by host Bob Schieffer on whether it was time for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan, the former House Speaker said, "I think it is.

"We have to reassess the entire region," Gingrich said. "We need to understand that our being in the middle of countries like Afghanistan is probably counterproductive."

In 2011, President Obama began the withdrawal of U.S. troops, reducing the number from 100,000 to 68,000 by this fall, with more to be withdrawn in 2013.

Gingrich, meanwhile, said the U.S. doesn't have the "willpower" or the "capacity" to "fundamentally change the region."

"We're not prepared to be ruthless enough to force them to change," Gingrich said, without expounding on what would he thinks would be necessary.

Gingrich offered dire predictions of the near future. "You look around the region, this is going to get much worse," he said.

The soldier's deadly rampage comes at time when tensions are high and distrust of Americans is growing in Afghanistan. After U.S. soldiers burned copies of the Quran at Bagram Air Base last month, rioting erupted resulting in more than two dozen Afghan deaths and the killing of six Americans.

Gingrich strongly decried President Obama's apology of the Quran burning, but on "Face the Nation" this morning, Gingrich said last night's shooting is a "different situation."

"With the burning of the Quran they were killing young Americans. No American president should apologize to people who in the process of killing young Americans," Gingrich said.

As for responding to the shooting, he said the U.S. should offer "condolences" and "compensation" to the families of the victims for the "terrible event."

"Our enemies, the terrorists, are in the business worldwide of killing the innocent," Gingrich said. "We need to make very clear that moral distinction. Then we have to live up to that distinction."

Also on "Face the Nation," President Obama's senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs called the incident in Afghanistan "deeply regrettable."

Gibbs said the coalition forces are investigating and that they will continue to train the Afghan forces so the U.S. "can bring our men and women home."

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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