It began with the burning of the Quran by an American pastor. Barack Obama, the US president, called it an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry, but he also criticised the violent protests in Afghanistan that were sparked by the incident.
Anger spread to the main southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the spiritual heartland of the Taliban. Protests took place a day after seven UN staff were among 14 people killed in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
They overwhelmed guards at the UN compound before setting it ablaze. It was the worst attack on the world body since the 2001 US-led invasion.
Last year Pastor Terry Jones drew condemnation over his aborted plan to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. A top UN official blames the pastor for the violence now erupting in Afghanistan.
So where does this leave the US-led effort to bring stability to the country?
Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Prince Ali Seraj, the president of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the tribes of Afghanistan; Phil Rees, a journalist and author of Dining with Terrorists; and Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specialising in foreign policy and civil liberties.
This episode of Inside Story aired from Sunday, April 3, 2011.