A suicide car bomber killed nine people at the Jalalabad military airport in eastern Afghanistan on Monday in an attack the Taliban claimed was revenge for U.S. soldiers burning Korans last week. Meanwhile a U.S. diplomat said the U.S. cannot exit Afghanistan too precipitously lest Al Qaeda reemerge.
Despite President Barack Obama claiming the Koran-burning incident was “inadvertent” in an apology he issued on Thursday, anti-American violent protests continued unabated across Afghanistan, which after six days has left over 30 dead.
The explosion in Jalalabad, according to The Washington Post, killed six civilians, two airport guards and one soldier while leaving another six people wounded.
The Jalalabad attack comes days after the slaying of two U.S. military advisers who were found dead in their office at the Interior Ministry in Kabul on Saturday with shots to the back of their heads. The stunning development forced NATO to withdraw all military and civilian workers from Afghan ministries.
According to AFP’s Emal Haidary, the U.S. advisers were supposedly killed for mocking the Koran-burning protests. Afghan police have reportedly identified a murder suspect – 25-year old Abdul Saboor, an Afghan intelligence official who had studied in Pakistan and joined the ministry as a driver in 2007.
Protesters hurled grenades at a small U.S. base in northern Afghanistan on Sunday which ignited a gun battle that left two Afghans dead and seven NATO troops wounded.
U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he believes the protests will “taper off” and was confident Afghans would eventually heed President Hamid Karzai’s calls for calm. Crocker also said the U.S. should resist the urge to withdraw troops ahead of schedule:
“This is not the time to decide that we are done here. We have got to redouble our efforts. We’ve got to create a situation that al Qaeda is not coming back,” Crocker said.
The U.S. plans on handing over the lead role in combat operations to Afghan security forces next year, but would continue fighting alongside them in an advise-and-assist mission for a period whose length would be dictated by “conditions on the ground.”
According to an agreement reached at an international conference in Lisbon in December 2010, NATO is supposed to wind down all combat operations by the end of 2014, although there are signs the process could be expedited.
Michael Hughes is a journalist based out of Washington D.C. and a policy strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), a native Afghan think tank.
For more stories on Afghanistan and Geopolitics go to www.michaelhughesassoc.com