0337 GMT January 18, 2018
The leaflet drop near Bagram Air Field, one of the biggest US bases in Afghanistan, which was supposed to encourage people in the fight against the Taliban, had images depicting dogs carrying a flag of the group, which contained religious verses.
“The Americans have insulted Muslims through this action and their beliefs and we will not sit quietly by,” said Mir Rahman, a protester at the rally in Qarabagh District near Bagram. “If the Americans and NATO continue to insult Islam, they will face the same fate that the Russians faced in Afghanistan.”
US commanders apologized for the leaflet and promised to hold those responsible to account but the affair has caused severe embarrassment at a time of heightened sensitivity over the separate issue of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes.
While the NATO-led Resolute Support coalition has generally taken pains to avoid cultural insensitivities, there have been several other examples where international forces, most of which come from non-Muslim cultures, have caused offense.
In a previous incident in 2012, when copies of the Quran were mistakenly burned, a number of people died in the following protests. So far, demonstrations have been on a much smaller scale but some protesters said they might continue.
“Apologies on their own will never cure any wound,” said Mehrabuddin, another protester, who like many Afghans, goes by one name. “If the Americans repeat such an insult in future we will keep up our demonstrations and, if needed, attack Bagram base,” he said.