News / Asia

Pentagon: Protests Won't Alter Afghan Strategy

Afghan policemen search car at a checkpoint in Kabul, February 26, 2012 (file photo).
Afghan policemen search car at a checkpoint in Kabul, February 26, 2012 (file photo).
Luis Ramirez

The U.S. military says it remains committed to its mission in Afghanistan, despite violence that was triggered by the reported burning of Qurans on a U.S. military base.

Pentagon officials say members of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan are continuing their work training Afghan security forces, despite the spike in violence following reports of the burning, for which the United States has apologized.

The increase in violence has raised questions about the viability of a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters Monday that the United States is taking "the long view," assessing what he said American forces have achieved in reversing the momentum of Taliban insurgents. "We will not let recent events allow us to lose sight of the progress we are making toward our broader objectives, including our core goal of defeating al-Qaida and its terrorist allies, and denying it the ability to maintain a safe haven in Afghanistan," he said.

U.S. troops are working to hand over security of the country to Afghan forces and complete their withdrawal by 2014.  U.S. officials say there are no plans to change that schedule.  But Little said strategies are "always evolving."

Recent violence in Afghanistan has left several people dead, including four Americans.  Two U.S. officers were killed last week when a gunman opened fire inside the Afghan Interior Ministry, where the American officers served as advisors.  On Monday, at least nine Afghans were killed when a bomber drove his vehicle into a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan.

The United States, for now, is not letting its advisors back to work at Afghan ministries.

U.S. Navy Captain John Kirby, an American military spokesman in Kabul, said that U.S. commanders are restricting the movements of their personnel in the city, especially outside of the heavily fortified Green Zone. "I'd be less than tense here, if I didn’t say that things were less than tense here in Kabul.  They certainly are.  But I will tell you that it's getting calmer here," he said.

Kirby said the number of demonstrations dwindled to three on Monday, all of them non-violent.  

U.S. forces are watching for possible new attacks on American personnel and on Monday were investigating after discovering that high quantities of chlorine bleach had been placed in coffee and on fruit at a soldiers’ dining facility inside a NATO base.

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