Rep. King: Afghan violence marks 'turning point' for US mission

Republican Rep. Pete King (N.Y.) said Tuesday that the violent protests after accidental Quran burnings by NATO troops in Afghanistan marked a "turning point" for the U.S. mission there.  

"I don't know if I would call it a crisis, it certainly is a turning point," said King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, to CNN's "Starting Point" on Tuesday. 

"I have supported the mission in Afghanistan. I believe it's important to our national security that the Taliban not be able to re-establish a base in Afghanistan," he added. 

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in the past week, including two U.S. officers shot within the Interior Ministry on Saturday, in a wave of violence spurred by the burning of Qurans and religious materials by NATO soldiers at Bagram Air Field last week. 

The New York congressman told CNN that the United States will have to "re-assess" its position in Afghanistan if the situation is not brought under control and similar attacks continue.

"It's partly encouraged by the Taliban, partly from provocateurs from Pakistan, but the fact is it's important, I think, for our government to make it clear to President Karzai we're not going to tolerate this. If this does continue, we're going to have to re-assess our entire mission there," he said. 

King joined with other Republicans in criticizing President Obama's handling of the situation, saying "it wasn't right for the president to apologize the way he did." 

"It was giving credence that the accidental burning of the Quran, or the mistaken burning of the Quran, somehow could justify any type of response like this by the Afghan people," King said. 

Republicans have hammered Obama for apologizing to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a letter sent last week after the Quran burnings, which he said was an “inadvertent” error. 

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said that Obama's apology "shows weakness," and GOP candidate Mitt Romney accused him of making “enormous errors” in Afghanistan. 

King said that while the Quran burning was "wrong," an apology issued by the president detracted from all of the "good" the U.S. military has done in the country.

He said that if an apology was going to be issued, it should have been delivered from a senior officer in the U.S. military to a senior officer in the Afghan military. 

"I think it escalated it. It gave it an importance,” said King of Obama’s apology. “We were acknowledging that it had an importance, which I don't believe it should."