Fletcher in the News

Prof. Vali Nasr on Anti-American Protests in Afghanistan

Wall Street Journal

Quran-Burning Protests in Afghanistan Turn Deadly

Deadly anti-American protests spread across Afghanistan Wednesday as demonstrators armed with guns, iron rods and rocks attacked Afghan government and Western targets, venting their outrage over the burning of copies of the Quran at a U.S. military base.

At least seven people were killed and dozens more were injured as Afghan police and soldiers confronted thousands of irate demonstrators in several cities, including the capital Kabul, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.

Around a thousand people rally in Kabul for a second day of fury against the burning of copies of the Koran, Islam's holy book, at NATO's main base in Afghanistan. (Video: Reuters/Photo: Getty Images)

The clashes highlighted mounting anti-Western resentment in Afghanistan as top American officials tried to contain the damage by personally apologizing to Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his Kabul palace. …

… The protests erupted as the U.S. is stepping up efforts to bring an end to its longest overseas war. American officials are looking to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Mr. Karzai that would allow the U.S. to maintain long-term military presence in Afghanistan after most combat troops withdraw in 2014. At the same time, they are trying to jump-start peace talks with Taliban negotiators in an attempt to secure a political settlement.

Incidents such as Monday's Quran-burning at Bagram "mobilize public opinion against the U.S. and the West," said Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University who served until last year as a senior adviser to the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan. "It is worrisome that Afghan politics is so fragile and potentially suspicious of the West just when the U.S. is preparing to leave and let Afghanistan stand on its own two feet."

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