WASHINGTON (AP/The Blaze) -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the accidental burning of Qurans in Afghanistan and the retaliatory killings of U.S. troops gave “new credence to the need to end the war,” the Associated Press reports. He also said the violence aimed at Americans in Afghanistan that followed the accidental burning of Qurans on a U.S. base was "unacceptable."
"I think that it is an indication of the challenges in that environment, and it's an indication that now is the time for us to transition," the president said during a White House news conference.
However, the president was careful to note that his administration probably wouldn't speed up of the NATO-backed plan to end combat missions in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, saying "that continues to be the plan."
As reported earlier on The Blaze, six American service members have been killed in retaliatory violence. In a move that he claimed “smoothed things over,” the president offered his apologies to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. His apology has been fiercely criticized by conservatives as “weak" and "unnecessary,” The Blaze reported.
Twenty-three senators, mostly Democrats but including two conservative Republicans, Sens. Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY), sent the president a letter urging him “to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan,” the AP reports.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who circulated the letter with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), said in a statement that there "something fundamentally wrong with spending $88 billion for national building in Afghanistan while we're asking Americans to make tough cuts here at home."
Later in the press conference, President Obama turned his attention to Iran, insisting that “diplomacy can still resolve the crisis" over the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons. He also accused Republicans of "beating the drums of war."
“Obama said he emphasized that message in his private meetings with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu this week,” the AP’s Ben Feller writes, “and implied that Israeli pressure for urgent action was not supported by the facts, saying that a decision was not necessary within the next weeks or months.”
Later on, the president referred to the violence in Syria as "heartbreaking" but hinted that intervention by the U.S. military is out of the question.
“Obama said unilateral military action by the United States against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad would be a mistake,” the AP reports, “And he rejected a comparison to Libya, where the United States and allies did intervene last year, saying the situation in Syria is more complex. In Syria, Russia has blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution against Assad's government, and Assad's military is better equipped and more powerful than the Libyan force.”
More than 7,500 people have been killed in Syria during the year-long government crackdown on the opposition.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.