Entries in Koran (17)


No Criminal Charges for US Soldiers in Koran Burning

February 2012: Pakistani Islamists set fire to the US flag during a protest over the burning of the Koran at a US-run military base in Afghanistan. S.S. MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Six Army soldiers have received administrative non-judicial punishments for their role in the inadvertent burning of Korans in Afghanistan, meaning they will not face criminal charges for an incident that set off deadly protests in Afghanistan in January.

Similar punishments were handed down earlier Monday to three Marines involved in an inflammatory video posted on the Internet in January that showed them urinating on the corpses of several Taliban fighters. Additional punishments are expected to be announced in the future against other Marines involved in that incident.

At the time, top Pentagon officials expressed concern that the incidents, separated by just weeks, could set off a backlash against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Violent street protests followed the Koran burning in February and two U.S. Army soldiers were shot at their desks in the Afghan Interior Ministry in an attack by an Afghan soldier, which officials said was motivated by the burning.

A defense official told ABC News the six soldiers being disciplined for the burning include four officers and two enlisted soldiers -- a warrant officer is among the four officers. A Navy sailor was also investigated for his alleged role, but the admiral who reviewed his case determined he was not guilty and that no further disciplinary action was warranted.

The Army did not specify exactly how the soldiers had been punished, but generally non-judicial administrative punishments can include, among other things, a reprimand, reductions in rank, forfeiting pay, extra duties or being restricted to a military base. The punishments remain on a service member's permanent record and can prevent further promotions.

U.S. Central Command posted a redacted copy of the full investigation into the incident on its website.

The Korans and other religious materials had been taken from the Parwan Detention Facility and were slated for incineration in a burn pit at Bagram Air Field. Officials at the detention facility suspected that detainees were using the religious texts to pass along messages to each other.

The report indicates that possibly as many as 100 Korans were consumed in the fire. Nearly 500 Korans and 1,123 other religious books were recovered and inventoried during the investigation.

Shortly after the incident, Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, quickly released a written apology and a video statement. President Obama apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the incident.

In an interview this past March with ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Allen reiterated that although the U.S. was investigating the incident, he did not believe the burning was intentional.

"I don't think for a second that anyone intended to defame the religious publications or the Koran or anyone sought to desecrate the faith," he said. "I don't believe that for a second."

He added, "You fix things that are broken and you hold people accountable....That's why you do investigations and we're headed in that direction."

The Army announced the administrative punishments in a statement, saying, "We take these incidents seriously."

It said the Army had taken "immediate corrective action and implemented many of the investigation's recommendations along with re-emphasizing proper handling of religious materials to all soldiers during pre-deployment training in order to minimize the potential for reoccurrence."

In the immediate aftermath of the incident Allen also ordered cultural and religious sensitivity training for troops from the 50 NATO countries serving in Afghanistan before and after they deploy there.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan Koran Burning: Investigators Recommend Administrative Punishments

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Military investigators, called in after the burning of Korans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan earlier this year, have recommended that as many as seven U.S. military service members face administrative punishments for their role in the incident.  They are not recommending criminal charges, according to several Defense officials.

A Defense official says as many as six Army soldiers and one sailor face administrative punishments that could range from letters of reprimand to reductions in pay.

Several Defense officials say the investigation’s results have been forwarded to the Army and Navy secretaries.  It will be up to them to determine if they will agree with the investigation’s recommendations or decide if a tougher or lighter punishment is in order.   A Defense official says the investigation’s recommendations for disciplinary action are “pending review” and no decisions have been made.

In February, the burning of Korans in a garbage pit set off rioting in Afghanistan and was likely the reason for the subsequent killings of two Army officers.  At the time Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, apologized for the incident. Officials labeled it inadvertent.

In the wake of the incident, NATO instituted new training so troops in Afghanistan could learn about the proper handling of religious materials.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Al Qaeda Leader Urges Followers to Avenge US Quran Burning

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Al Qaeda is attempting to stir up anti-U.S. sentiment in the Muslim world by once again bringing up last February's burning of Qurans at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

During a new audio posted on radical Islamic websites Wednesday, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahari recalled the incident that led to riots in Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of several American service personnel.

Since destroying the Islamic holy book is the ultimate sacrilege, al-Zawahari called on all Muslims to fight "those aggressors who occupied your countries, stole your wealth and violated your sanctities."

Even though the U.S. issued apologies immediately after the incident came to light, the al Qaeda chief said that Americans and their allies only pretended to be sorry for the Quran burning, calling it a "silly farce."

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages, verified the authenticity of the audio posting.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gen. John Allen Stands by US Apology for Koran Burning

DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Monday that he does not regret the apologies he and President Obama issued for the Koran burning incident, arguing that the move -- rare for a U.S. commander in chief -- was the right thing to do and that it has saved American lives.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Allen dismissed criticism in the U.S. over the apologies.

"Why wouldn't we [apologize]?" the general asked. "This is the central word of God for them. Why wouldn't we? We didn't do it on purpose, but we should apologize and we did."

In late February, troops at Bagram Air Field, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, burned Korans and other religious materials after the books were mistakenly thrown out with the trash and put on a burn pile.

Allen quickly released a written apology and a video statement. He then gave an interview to NATO television.

As word spread, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside of Bagram and on the outskirts of Kabul. Some shot into the air; some threw rocks at the Bagram gate and others yelled: "Die, die foreigners." Six U.S. service members were killed.

Obama also apologized for the incident.

Allen said Monday that he thought the apology saved U.S. lives and that it helped the U.S. and Afghanistan to move beyond the incident.

"There is a relationship here in this country at a personal level that most people don't have any understanding of," Allen told ABC News. "That relationship can withstand shocks from time to time. ...The apologies were sincere and the people recognized it."

He reiterated that although the U.S. was pushing forward with an investigation of the incident, he did not believe the burning was intentional.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama: Koran Apology 'Calmed Things Down'

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said his formal apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Korans by U.S. troops last week has "calmed things down" after the incident sparked an outbreak of violence across the country.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Bob Woodruff at the White House. "But my criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure that they can accomplish their mission."

The president's comments came just hours before a formal White House dinner to honor Iraq War veterans, some of whom have also served in Afghanistan and may be redeploying there to assist ongoing U.S. military operations. Woodruff was the only journalist invited to attend the dinner.

Obama said his letter to Karzai aimed to curb further danger to U.S. troops on the ground. It reportedly expressed regret for the apparently inadvertent burning of the Korans, the sacred text of Islam, on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

Still, the president's critics and some members of the military have questioned the appropriateness of the move, given the subsequent murder of two U.S. military officers at the hands of an Afghan inside one of the capital's secure ministry buildings.

"Everything else -- the politics or second guessing of these various decisions -- I'm not worried about," Obama said.

Even as he honors the service and sacrifice of veterans who have returned home, Obama said that at Wednesday night's event he will urge troops still fighting in Afghanistan not to recoil from the short-term challenges and to learn from the successful mission in Iraq.

"As difficult as Afghanistan has been, we are making progress because of the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform," Obama said. "The overwhelming majority of Afghan troops have welcomed and benefitted from the training and partnering that we're doing."

"When you think about it, the same thing was true in Iraq," he said. "War is a tough business, and never goes in a perfectly good path. But because of the stick-to-it-ness of our teams, I feel confident that we can stay on a path that, by the end of 2014, our troops will be out and will not be in a combat role, and Afghans will have capacity, just as Iraqis, to secure their own country."

Wednesday's event, themed, "A Nation's Gratitude," is the first of its kind to mark the end of a major war and comes just two and a half months after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq.

A handpicked group of 78 service members selected proportionally from across all military branches, ranks and states will attend, officials said, joined by members of military families, Gold Star families and wounded warriors. They are said to reflect the diversity of the more than 1.5 million Americans who served in Iraq during the nearly nine-year war.

The dinner "is a celebration of the men and women who carried out an extraordinarily difficult mission and did so with honor, integrity, and courage and, as a consequence, were successful in being able to give Iraq a chance to build a representative, democratic country," Obama told Woodruff.

"I am always in awe of the sacrifices they've made and the excellence of their work," he said. "And I think this is just one small gesture among many gestures across the country of gratitude for those folks who gave extraordinary service."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton Defends US Mission in Afghanistan Before Lawmakers

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on the hot seat Tuesday, answering congressional lawmakers' questions about the recent turmoil in Afghanistan resulting from the burning of Korans at Bagram Airfield.

With Afghans furious over the desecration of their most revered religious materials, leading to the killings of several American military personnel, Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski pressed Clinton to justify continuing the mission in Afghanistan when Army Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II of Baltimore was shot in the head while inside the supposedly secure Interior Ministry.

Mikulski asked, "What do I tell his family today?  Was it worth it?  Because they're angry.  People in Maryland are angry."

The senator said that while the U.S. went into Afghanistan to protect national security after the nation was attacked on 9/11, relations with the Afghans have become nearly unworkable.

Clinton acknowledged that there was no justification for the killing of an American officer under any circumstance.

However, the nation's top envoy insisted, "We have both made progress on the principle reason we were there -- security.  Because of our platform and our presence in Afghanistan, we've been able to target terrorists, particularly top al-Qaeda operatives including (Osama) bin Laden in their safe havens.  And we have made progress in helping the Afghan people."

As Clinton was getting clobbered on Capitol Hill, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave his support to the administration's position when he told a seminar in Washington, D.C. that the U.S. and its coalition allies "are showing remarkable restraint and professionalism under very difficult circumstances."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Staying the Course in Afghanistan Despite Koran Controversy

U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury(WASHINGTON) -- While relations between the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan government may never be the same again due to last week's burning of Korans at Bagram Airfield, the Obama administration has no intention of speeding up its withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan.

The incident has led to unprecedented violence directed at American and NATO troops, with four U.S. service members killed and Marine Gen. John Allen, who commands coalition forces in Afghanistan, pulling all advisors from Afghan ministries to protect them from further attacks.

On Monday, the Pentagon sought to calm fears that the U.S. has suddenly lost its determination to carry out the long-term goal of defeating al Qaeda and keeping the Taliban from reclaiming its hold on Afghanistan.

Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters, "Anyone who believes they can weaken our resolve through these cowardly attacks is severely mistaken.  There is much at stake in Afghanistan, and our commitment to our mission and our strategy will not waver."

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for fueling the anti-American fervor in Afghanistan, as well as the killings of a U.S. major and colonel last Saturday inside the heavily fortified Interior Ministry in Kabul.  The shooter, identified as a driver who worked there, remains at large.

There was more violence Monday as a car bomb exploded outside a NATO base in Jalalabad that left nine Afghans dead.  No coalition troops were among the fatalities.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gingrich to Afghanistan: 'Live Your Own Miserable Life'

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Monday that the unrest the United States was seeing in Afghanistan was just “the tip of the iceberg.”

“We’re not going to fix Afghanistan. It’s not possible. These are people who have spent several thousand years hating foreigners,” Gingrich said. “And what we’ve done by staying is become the new foreigners. And this is a real problem.”

Gingrich said that in his judgment, the problems the U.S. face in the Middle East are too big and complicated for military solutions.

“There’s some problems where what you have to do is say, ‘You know, you’re going to have to figure out how to live your own miserable life because I’m not here — you clearly don’t want to hear from me how to be unmiserable,’” Gingrich said.

Gingrich was critical of President Obama last week for apologizing to Afghanistan after the burning of copies of the Koran sparked mass protests. Gingrich said the president should not have apologized since two Americans were killed.

On Monday, Gingrich also took a swipe at Afghan president Hamid Zarzai. “My prediction is, the Karzai government is playing us for fools,” Gingrich said. “So my view is that we need to be, we need to have a president who is prepared to tell the truth about who is trying to kill us.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nine Killed in Suicide Car Bombing at Afghan Airport

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JALALABAD, Afghanistan) -- Nine people were killed and at least six others were wounded in Afghanistan Monday when a suicide car bomber targeted the entrance of a military airfield in Jalalabad.

The attack on the airport, which serves as a base for NATO troops, is the latest in a string of violence that has erupted in the country ever since it was discovered that coalition forces burned Korans and other religious materials at Bagram Air Field early last week.

According to Jalalabad's police chief, six civilians, two private contractor guards and a soldier died in Monday's attack.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the bombing.  The group said the incident was in revenge for the burning of Korans by American soldiers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Several Killed in Deadliest Day of Afghan Protests over Koran Burning

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Protests over the inadvertent burning of Korans and other religious materials earlier this week by coalition forces in Afghanistan continued in the country for a fourth straight day on Friday, claiming the lives of at least 10 people.

Herat took the biggest hit, with six fatalities reported in and around the city, according to local officials.  Two others, including a child, died in Khost, while one person was killed in Kabul and another north of the Afghan capital in Baghlan.

Friday's demonstrations were the deadliest so far, and come a day after two American members of NATO's International Security Assistance Force were fatally shot by an Afghan Army soldier.

Thursday night, Gen. John Allen, the commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, made an unannounced visit to the base where the two U.S. soldiers were killed.

In an impassioned speech, he urged his men not to lash out with their own anger.

"There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss. There will be moments like this, when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back. These are the moments when you reach down inside and you grip the discipline which makes you a United States soldier and you gut through the pain, and you gut through the anger and you remember why we’re here.  We’re here for our friends, we’re here for our partners, we’re here for the Afghan people," Allen said.

"Now is not the time for revenge, now is not the time for vengeance, now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are," he continued.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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