By Amie Parnes - 03/12/12 10:31 PM EDT
President Obama said Monday that the U.S. should leave Afghanistan in a "responsible way" and not "rush for the exits" after the recent outbreak of violence.
Afghanistan has been riled by anti-American protests following the killing of 16 Afghan civilians Sunday by a U.S. soldier. That incident came on the heels of U.S. troops accidentally burning Qurans, which Obama apologized for.
In a round of interviews with local network affiliates Monday, Obama called Sunday's shooting of civilians "absolutely heartbreaking and tragic."
But Obama said the U.S. continues to fulfill a mission in the war zone, despite the rash of violent demonstrations.
In the interview, Obama said "it's important for us to make sure that we get out in a responsible way, so that we don't end up having to go back in."
"What we don't want to do is to do it in a way that is just a rush for the exits," Obama said.
But in a separate interview with the Denver CBS affiliate, Obama said "I think it's important for us just to make sure that we are not ... in Afghanistan longer than we need to be."