Afghan deaths - Obama vows justice
Washington - President Barack Obama on Tuesday sought to calm outrage over a massacre of civilians by a US soldier in Afghanistan, telling Afghans he took it as seriously as if Americans had been slaughtered.
Obama promised that the culprit for the rampage which killed 16 civilians, mostly women and children, in a methodical house-to-house killing spree, would face the "full force" of US law.
The president also sent a clear signal that the incident, the latest in a string of reverses for US policy in Afghanistan, would not deflect his plans for a responsible withdrawal and continued fight against al-Qaeda.
Obama told President Hamid Karzai that "the United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered".
"We're heartbroken over the loss of innocent life. The killing of innocent civilians is outrageous and it's unacceptable. It's not who we are as a country, and it does not represent our military."
Obama said he had directed the Pentagon to spare no effort in a full investigation, into why a US army sergeant and veteran of three tours of Iraq, apparently left his base and mounted a lone killing spree.
"I can assure the American people and the Afghan people that we will follow the facts wherever they lead us, and we will make sure that anybody who was involved is held fully accountable with the full force of the law."
Obama's decision to address the incident in a statement in the White House Rose Garden devoted to trade issues, appeared to underline deep US concern about the possibility of reprisals against American forces for the outrage.
It also came amid growing public debate about the state of US war strategy which is now being thrust into the heat of a US election as Obama campaigns for a second term, and tries to run on strong national security credentials.
The president said that he met the US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker and Afghan mission commander General John Allen on Monday to discuss his strategy for a responsible withdrawal, fight to crush al-Qaeda and to provide Afghans with the means of securing their own security.
"There's no question that we face a difficult challenge in Afghanistan, but I'm confident that we can continue the work of meeting our objectives, protecting our country and responsibly bringing this war to a close," Obama said.