Inside Story Americas
The divide between occupier and occupied
After a week of bloodshed in Afghanistan, we ask if the fragile relationship between Washington and Kabul is unraveling.
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2012 10:50

A week of protests and a week of bloodshed. There appears to be no end to the anger being expressed in Afghanistan over the burning of the Quran by US troops at Bagram Air Base.

"What this event demonstrates is the way in which episodes like this are used by domestic actors in Afghanistan .... I want the Karzai government to take ownership of the domestic turbulence that arises in every single one of these cases .... He is responsible for telling his citizens that this is not the appropriate way to respond to something that outrages you."

- Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University

Despite repeated apologies from Barack Obama, the US president, and others in his administration, the incident is threatening to rip apart some of the fragile relationships that exist in the country.

Already, many Western countries have removed civilian staff from Afghan institutions after two senior NATO officers were shot dead at the interior ministry.

And NATO members are criticising Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, for not speaking out more strongly against the wave of apparent revenge attacks.

But perhaps most significantly, the incident has exposed deeper roots to the anger - a resentment that has grown among many Afghans throughout the more than decade-long occupation of their country.

Despite claims of progress, the US-led war continues to cause the deaths of Afghan civilians and the Taliban appear far from defeated.

And, in the remaining battle for hearts and minds, the Quran burning incident has widened the divide between occupier and occupied.

"This is a manufactured event by the clerics .... When you talk about ... what US forces have done in Afghanistan and what the Taliban have done there is absolutely no comparison."

- Paul Eaton, a senior adviser with the National Security Network

Even though the US is facing its biggest show of anger across Afghanistan in more than a decade, the US military says its mission remains undiminished and that they are working very closely with their Afghan counterparts on a daily basis.

The American plan is to reduce troop numbers in the coming months with the intention of having all combat troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. They will leave a number of advisers to work closely with Afghan security. But, to have that type of relationship there must be trust and confidence. So, does the damage done to the relationship between the governments in Washington and Kabul endanger this trust?

In more than 10 years of war, what has the US achieved in Afghanistan? Are we witnessing the final unraveling of the US-led war in Afghanistan?

Joining Inside Story Americas to discuss this are: Paul Eaton, a retired major-general and a senior adviser with the National Security Network; Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University who specialises in South Asia; and Mark Kimmitt, a retired brigadier-general and former deputy director at US Central Command who joins the show from Baghdad.

The aftermath of the Quran burning incident:

• The Quran burning has caused seven days of unrest across Afghanistan
• More than 30 people have been killed since the incident
• Afghans working at a rubbish burning pit discovered the Qurans on February 20
• Thousands of Afghans have protested against the US presence in their country
• At least four US soldiers are among those who have been killed
• NATO, Britain and France have recalled their international advisers
• Afghanistan's defence and interior ministers have cancelled their trips to the US as a result of it
• Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, has renewed his calls for calm
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