Spokane, Washington (CNN) – Newt Gingrich lambasted President Barack Obama for apologizing to Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai Thursday, suggesting the United States pull its troops out of the country after two American troops were killed Thursday.
Gingrich was the first Republican White House hopeful to criticize the president for apologizing after Muslim holy books containing extremist language were burned by NATO soldiers.
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
Gingrich told a crowd in Spokane, Washington: "President Obama surrendered twice today and I think that deserves to be brought to the country's attention."
He continued, "The president apologized for the burning, but I haven't seen the president demand that the government of Afghanistan apologize for the killing of two young Americans."
Gingrich was referring to two American troops who were killed in Afghanistan Thursday. The troops were killed by a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform, according to a U.S. official.
It is not clear if the troops were killed in revenge for the burning of Qurans, but the attack occurred at a base outside of which the demonstration was taking place, a local official said.
Gingrich raised questions about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in light of the troops' deaths.
"My hunch is, since the person who killed them is an Afghan soldier, that that soldier was being paid with American money, armed with American money, trained with American money," Gingrich said.
The former House speaker delivered a stark warning to the Afghan leader, saying, "If Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, doesn't feel like apologizing, then I think we should say good bye and good luck. We don't need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn't care."
The events in Afghanistan allowed Gingrich to build on a larger suggestion that the Obama administration does not stand up for religious freedom. He decried the Democratic president as someone who "abjectly crawls to apologize" to Afghanistan, a country with "religious fanatics."
"There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama's attention in a negative way, and he is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States, period," Gingrich said.
The two American troops killed are among at least nine people who have been killed near or amid demonstrations that have erupted in Afghanistan since the burning of the Islamic religious material by NATO troops at the beginning of the week. A military official said the religious materials had been removed from a detention center and burned because they contained "extremist inscriptions."
Gingrich claimed the incident "has now been blown into a huge incident by various fanatics in Afghanistan."
A statement Thursday from National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama had spoken with Karzai Sunday, before it emerged that the religious material was burned. A written note from the President followed later in the week apologizing for the burning.
"Following up on their February 20 phone call, the president sent a letter to President Karzai to continue their discussion on a range of issues related to our long-term partnership," Vietor said. "In the letter, delivered by Ambassador Crocker this afternoon in Kabul, the President also expressed our regret and apologies over the incident in which religious materials were unintentionally mishandled at Bagram Airbase."
Earlier Thursday former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also went after Obama for his apology, writing on her Facebook page, "Obama apologizes for the inadvertent Koran burning this week; now the U.S. trained and protected Afghan Army can apologize for killing two of our soldiers yesterday.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Republicans who claim the president is weak for apologizing were ignoring basic facts.
"That's a fully false, fallacious and ridiculous narrative that is not borne out by any facts," Carney said. "The President, following up on a telephone conversation, the likes of which he has routinely with President Karzai, wrote a long letter on a variety of issues related to our bilateral engagement, including reconciliation, including the trilateral talks with Pakistan last week in Islamabad, in which he also expressed his condolences – or rather, his apology for the inadvertent burning of religious materials by American personnel in Afghanistan."