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Obama dismisses critics of his apology to Afghans

Quran burning backlash puts Afghan mission in question
Afghans express their rage over the accidental burning of Korans by U.S. soldiers at Bagram Airbase.

President Obama on Wednesday dismissed criticism of his decision to issue a formal apologyfor the burning of Korans on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and said the apology helped to calm down the violence that broke out there in the wake of the Koran burnings.

The apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai "calmed things down," Mr. Obama told ABC News in an interview at the White House, though he added that "we're not out of the woods yet." The burning of the Islamic holy book, which the White House said was accidental, prompted days of protests across Afghanistan and resulted in the death of four Americans and dozens of Afghans.

The apology also prompted criticism from Mr. Obama's political opponents, including GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who said the president "surrendered"in making the apology. Gingrich said Mr. Obama "is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States, period."

In his interview with ABC News, Mr. Obama said that his "criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure that they can accomplish their mission."

He added that the politics of the issue don't concern him.

"Everything else -- the politics or second-guessing of these various decisions -- I'm not worried about," said the president.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Marine Gen. John Allen, the commander-in-charge of the war, told "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley Wednesday that the incident will not destroy the frayed U.S.-Afghan relationship. The violence erupted after Americans were seen dumping books into a garbage pit where waste is burned.

"Scott, clearly it's been a bad week but I'm quite confident we'll get through this," said Crocker. "The pace of protest has slowed dramatically. A decade's worth of relationships doesn't go away in a single week, so we'll move forward."