Amb. Rice says Afghan violence won’t alter timeline for US withdrawal

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Monday that the violence in Afghanistan this past week does not change the timeline under which U.S. forces plan to hand over security operations to the Afghans.

Rice said on MSNBC Monday the deaths of four U.S. troops that have occurred amid violence stemming from the burnings of Qurans at a U.S. airbase cannot “lead us to prematurely curtail a vital mission that’s essential to our national security.”

“The reality is that we have a mission that has to be accomplished, we have an agreed timetable and enormous progress that has been made in terms of training, equipping and bringing up to capacity the Afghan Security Forces,” Rice said.

“The incidents that have occurred over the last week, and isolated incidents prior to that, we do not think represent a pattern of deterioration that is insurmountable by any stretch,” she said.

Thousands of Afghans have protested across the country after Qurans were burned at Bagram Air Base last Tuesday. Four U.S. troops were killed — including two officers inside the Afghan Interior ministry — and another seven were wounded by a grenade thrown at a base in Northern Afghanistan Sunday.

NATO pulled personnel out of the ministries in Kabul as a result of the Interior shooting.

The Taliban on Monday claimed responsibility for a car bomb at an airport in Eastern Afghanistan that killed at least nine.

The spike in violence has prompted some, including Democratic Senate Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe GOP defends Trump judicial nominee with no trial experience Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (D-Ill.), to say the United States needs to speed up its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“At this moment in time, it appears we're a long way from having a trusting and working relationship,” Durbin said on CNN Monday. “We need to start gearing ourselves into a new position, bringing our troops home.”

Rice said Monday that the NATO timeline currently in place, which would transfer power to the Afghan forces at the end of 2014, still remains a realistic goal.