Petraeus Condemns U.S. Church’s Plan to Burn Qurans

KABUL—The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said the planned burning of Qurans on Sept. 11 by a small Florida church could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort.

Gen. David Petraeus said the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes, drumming up anger toward the U.S. and making it harder for allied troops to carry out their mission of protecting Afghan civilians.

(AFP/Getty Images. Gen. David Petraeus said the planned burning of Qurans on Sept. 11 by a Florida church could put the lives of American troops in danger.)

“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Gen. Petraeus said in an interview. “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”

Hundreds of Afghans attended a demonstration in Kabul on Monday to protest the plans of Florida pastor Terry Jones, who has said he will burn copies of Islam’s holy book to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Afghan protesters chanted “death to America,” and speakers called on the U.S. to withdraw its troops. Some protesters threw rocks at a passing military convoy.

Military officials fear the protests will likely spread to other Afghan cities, especially if the event is broadcast or ends up on Internet video.

Mr. Jones, head of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., said in a statement that “We understand the General’s concerns. We are sure that his concerns are legitimate.” Nonetheless, he added, “We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam. We will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats.”

Mr. Jones has been denied a permit for the demonstration, but has said he plans to go forward with the protest.

Source:  By JULIAN E. BARNES And MATTHEW ROSENBERG – WSJ

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