The U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan is calling for disciplinary action for those responsible for the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base last week. The incident sparked days of deadly protests and attacks across the country during which as many as 30 Afghan and four American soldiers were killed.
Speaking at a press conference in Kabul, Jan Kubis, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, tried to distance the organization from the burning of Islamic holy books and other religious materials by U.S. military personnel at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul.
“We were very hurt as the United Nations to see that other part of the international community, international military, by mistake, but allowed this kind of desecration of the holy Quran,” he said.
Kubis also praised President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials for sincerely apologizing for the mistake, and he called for disciplinary action against those involved in the burning of the Qurans. The U.S. military is conducting an investigation into the matter that could lead to criminal prosecution or less severe administrative punishment in accordance with U.S. military regulations.
The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan also condemned the violence that occurred during the protests that followed the burning of the Qurans. However, he noted that a majority of the demonstrations were peaceful.
The protests have for the most part ended. But on Thursday gunmen, reportedly either Afghan soldiers or militants in disguise, killed two NATO soldiers in Kandahar. It was the latest in a series of attacks targeting members of the U.S.-led coalition. On February 25, two U.S. military officers were murdered in the Afghan Interior Ministry, which prompted the NATO commander to recall all military advisers from Afghan institutions.
Kubis also withdrew U.N. staff after an attack on a UN facility in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. But he says the withdrawal is only temporary.
“So we are not leaving Kunduz," said Kubis. "We are not leaving other places where also we saw some people that tried to instigate the people against us. But we need to make sure that the population in the place where we have our offices wants us.”
President Obama also emphasized that the recent violence in Afghanistan will not alter his administration's plan to gradually withdraw troops and hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.