A wave of protests and violence has spread throughout Afghanistan despite apologies from US President Barak Obama and US Commander in Afghanistan General John Allen who described the February 21 burning as an “accident” and said the action didn’t reflect US views or attitudes toward Islam.
Attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan have increased. Two US military advisors have been killed and violent clashes between security forces and angry crowds have killed dozens of Afghanis.
The anger has spread to neighboring Pakistan, with hundreds marching in Islamabad, Karachi and Multan on February 24 in protest against the Koran burning.
Last April, American preacher Wayne Sapp of Florida deliberately burned a Koran, provoking anger in the Muslim world. The current incident, though not deliberate, took place in the heart of the Islamic world where anti-US feelings were already at the flash point, and the result has been a firestorm of anger and violence.
The incident comes just as the US is trying to stabilize Afghanistan before withdrawing its troops and with a US Presidential campaign underway. While the US needs other NATO forces to help stabilize Afghanistan, Germany, the third largest contributor to NATO forces in Afghanistan after the US and UK, withdrew its troops from Taluqan on February 23, after 300 Afghanis demonstrated outside that base.
More German troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of next month. On February 25th, International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan withdrew staff from ministerial agencies in Kabul and neighboring areas after two American military advisors were shot dead at the Afghan Interior Ministry.
In the US, the Republican Party took the opportunity to criticize President Obama. Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called President Obama’s apology to Afghan authorities for the burned Korans "astonishing" and undeserved because two US soldiers were killed with no apology.
The Taliban is using the situation to encourage Afghanis to protest, attack and kill foreign soldiers in revenge.
It has been 10 years since US and NATO forces overthrew the Taliban. But, a decade has not been enough time to bring stability and security to Afghanistan. Now that hope seems to be receding further than ever.