The United States’ top commander in Afghanistan has warned that a planned Koran-burning event in Florida could put U.S. troops in danger.
Gen. David Petraeus added his voice to mounting protests from both the US and abroad over the Dove World Outreach Center’s plans to burn Korans on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. His comments ratcheted up the pressure on once-obscure pastor Terry Jones to call off the event.
The controversy comes as some 120,000 US and allied troops are waging a counter-insurgency campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a campaign whose goals include winning support for the US-backed government from the largely Muslim population.
General Petraeus said that burning Korans “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,” according to CNN.
“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan,” Gen. David Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday.
“Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday,” he said. “Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult.”
Jones, the pastor of the center in Gainesville, Florida, has touted the activity as “International Burn the Koran Day.” Jones also authored a book titled “Islam is of the Devil,” which has a Facebook page and Twitter account.
In remarks published by Florida radio station WOKV on Tuesday morning, Jones insisted he would not be deterred.
“We think the message is that important,” said Pastor Terry Jones. “We can not back down just because of fear, because if we back down, it won’t make Islam any more moderate” said Jones.
On Monday, some 500 people gathered in Kabul to protest the Florida church’s plans, and to demand the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press.