Afghanistan war commander: Killings will not accelerate drawdown

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

The alleged killings this weekend by a rogue soldier will not force the U.S. to accelerate its planned drawdown in Afghanistan, the top U.S. commander there said Monday.

Gen. John Allen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer the U.S. is "not contemplating... at all" a faster-than-scheduled pullout from Afghanistan despite the possibility of retaliation and a resurgence in violence after the killings of 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday. "The campaign is solid. It does not contemplate, at this time, any form of an accelerated drawdown," Allen said from the Pentagon.

The violent attack this weekend, in which a U.S. soldier reportedly went from home to home opening fire on sleeping Afghan civilians-- including women and children-- threatens to worsen tensions with Afghanistan.  Even before the latest tragedy, President Obama was trying to expedite his way out of the longest war in American history, and now Obama is likely to only speed things up further.

Asked what would, exactly, fuel an accelerated drawdown in the volatile country, Allen said: "That's not for me to decide."

Allen currently commands slightly less than 91,000 American troops in the country. Obama has already ordered the remainder of the 33,000 U.S. surge troops to leave the country by the end of September, which would leave some 68,000 U.S. troops in the country. 

The man suspected of killing the Afghan civilians acted alone, Allen said. The soldier, who was supporting a village stability operation to help the Afghan local police, was quickly noticed when he left his base in the Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan. 

"An Afghan soldier detected his departure and reported it," Allen said. "A search party was being put together immediately." As the American soldiers realized who was missing during a headcount, and the search party was forming, Allen said, "we began having indications of the outcome of his departure." 

While Allen would not release the suspect's name to protect the investigation, he did confirm the suspect served three tours to Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan.

Allen offered his "sincere condolences" to the victims, their families, and the Afghan people. "This is tremendoulsy regrettable," he said. "We are investigating it aggressively and we will hold the individual accountable should the evidence point to his culpability here."

Allen's command will take the lead of the investigation. Amid calls from some Afghan officials to take charge of the investigation, Allen promised to keep the Afghan government informed throughout the investigation and prosecution. "But this individual will be investigated and the outcome will be in accordance with U.S. law."

"We are going to do all we can to do right by the wounded, do right by the families," Allen said.

Stressing the killings were an isolated act, Allen promised the military campaign would press on. "We're going to do a thorough investigation, we're going to hold this individual accountable, and we're going to move on," Allen said. "This relationship is too deep, it has been going on too long, we have all sacrificed too much for us to permit this to be the single event that unhorses this relationship."

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