The U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Monday criticized a Florida church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran on September 11, warning the demonstration “could cause significant problems” for American troops overseas.
“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan,” Gen. David Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday.
With about 120,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops still battling al Qaeda and its allies in the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement, Petraeus warned that burning Qurans “is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems — not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”
And one of his deputies, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, told CNN’s “The Situation Room” that event “has already stirred up a lot of discussion and concern” among Afghans.
“We very much feel that this can jeopardize the safety of our men and women that are serving over here in the country,” said Caldwell, the head of NATO efforts to train Afghan security forces.
Caldwell said American troops “are over here to defend the rights of American citizens, and we’re not debating the First Amendment rights that people have.” But he added, “What I will tell you is that their very actions will in fact jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we’re trying to accomplish.”