Updated 4:52 pm ET
President Obama this afternoon issued a statement of condolence on the apparent killing of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier. Have a look.
I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians. I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering. This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan. I fully support Secretary Panetta’s and General Allen’s commitment to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.
Notice what this very deliberately is not: an apology. It’s an offer of condolence. The president has moved swiftly to respond with a statement that expresses profound dismay without sounding weak, as he did when he apologized for last month’s burning of the Korans.
What’s more, he noted the inconsistency of this action with “the exceptional character” of our armed forces, making it clear that there is nothing about our military that could have led to such a tragedy. It was important to remind our service members that we know this is not them and that we support them, and to let the Afghans and the world know that we stand proud even as we share the Afghans’s shock and grief.
I think at this stage, with information still being assembled about the events, Obama’s statement is just about right.
UPDATE: Obama also called Karzai today to express condolences and met with national security advisers for a briefing on what happened.