Mocking of Quran rallies brings killing
Afghan demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest in Helmand. AFP photoA suicide car bomber killed nine people yesterday in an attack on a military airport in eastern Afghanistan, the latest bloodshed since copies of the Quran were burned at a NATO base last week. As the tension intensifies, France, Germany and the U.N. said they would pull out staff from Afghan institutions, following NATO and Britain.
There was no official indication the explosion at the gates of Jalalabad airport was linked to the deadly protests, but the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack as “revenge” for the burnings. About 40 people have been killed in protests and related attacks since the incident became known Feb. 21.
The U.S. ambassador said the United States should resist the urge to pull troops out of Afghanistan ahead of schedule. “Tensions are running very high here. I think we need to let things calm down, return to a more normal atmosphere, and then get on with business,” Ambassador Ryan Crocker told CNN. “This is not the time to decide that we are done here. We have got to redouble our efforts. We’ve got to create a situation that al-Qaeda is not coming back,” he said. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s defense and interior ministers have canceled a visit to Washington next week to concentrate on addressing security concerns back home, the Pentagon said Feb. 26.
France and Germany said the withdrawal of experts and staff from Afghan ministries was prompted by safety concerns after Feb. 25’s slaying of two U.S. advisors at the Afghan Interior Ministry. The decision was a “reasonable precautionary measure,” German Cooperation Minister Dirk Niebel said although he stressed Germany would stick to the commitments made in the Afghan conflict. The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement the measure would be rescinded as soon as “conditions permitted.” The French and German move is similar to steps taken Feb. 25 by NATO and Britain.
The United Nations has also made a similar decision. The U.N. said in a statement issued yesterday that the evacuation in the northern town of Kunduz was temporary and staffers would be relocated elsewhere in Afghanistan until the organization was sure the office could operate in safety. Upon questioning, the Turkish Foreign Ministry told the Daily News on Feb. 26 that Turkey was not considering withdrawing any of its staff from Afghanistan.
Compiled from Reuters, AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.