Obama shocked by Afghan shooting rampage

President Barack Obama
CBS

Updated 4:40 p.m. ET

(CBS News) President Barack Obama called the apparent murder of 16 Afghan civilians by an American soldier "tragic and shocking," and said he was "deeply saddened" by the incident and called Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to express his condolences. 

The president released a statement after a soldier allegedly opened fire in Kandahar province killing 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children. A soldier turned himself in and is in U.S. custody.

"This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan," the president said.

The president said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), have opened an investigation into the incident.

President Obama said the U.S. will "hold accountable anyone responsible" and that he offers "condolences to the families and loves who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering."

Jere van Dyk: What might Kandahar shootings mean for U.S.?

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.

On CBS New' "Face the Nation," White House Correspondent Norah O'Donnell said the incident could amplify calls for a quicker withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

"I bet you'll see more of that this week from Democrats who say, 'Why are we in Afghanistan? It's time to leave.' And it's coming at a time when this discussion is underway about pulling forces out," O'Donnell said.

In 2011, President Obama began the withdrawal of U.S. troops, reducing the number from 100,000 to 68,000 by this fall.

Will Afghan killings speed up U.S. withdrawal?

Also on "Face the Nation," in response to a question by host Bob Schieffer on whether it was time for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said 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."

Gingrich: It's time to get out of Afghanistan

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

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

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.