Violent demonstrations over the unintentional burning of Korans by U.S. soldiers continued to spread across Afghanistan on Friday, despite a direct apology by President Obama to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Already this week, protesters have hurled rocks at U.S. military installations, an Afghan serviceman killed two American soldiers, and several Afghan politicians called for the withdrawal of foreign troops. Could the outrage over this incident definitively turn public opinion in Afghanistan against the U.S. and NATO?
This could be the beginning of the end: "There is no military solution in Afghanistan. It is ultimately a battle for perceptions," says Andrew North at BBC News. And the U.S. and NATO have long been losing ground on that front, as "attitudes towards the Americans have progressively hardened" due to a litany of mistakes, such as the recent video showing U.S. soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters. Now, with anti-American fury spreading, the Koran-burning incident "could turn into a tipping point."
"Will Afghan Koran row prove NATO's tipping point?"
The Koran burning at least makes America's job harder: "Eventually, the riots will stop," says Sanjeev Miglani at Reuters, "but the memory that foreign troops disrespected the holy book" will linger. That's bound to complicate Washington's already-tricky relationship with the Afghan government. Karzai wants control over the prison where the Korans were burned and an end to night raids, and the Afghan public's rage will strengthen his hand.
"Culture wars: The burning of the Koran"
Actually, this will blow over soon: After just four days, the energy is already draining out of the protests, says John Wendle at TIME. Roughly a dozen people have died in the protests, "but it could have been a lot worse." The Taliban urged angry Afghans to kill Americans, hoping to turn public opinion against foreign troops once and for all. But cooler heads appear to be prevailing, because, after a decade of war, Afghans are "simply tired of violence."
"Afghanistan: Riots over Koran burning subside, but does anger still simmer?"