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Afghanistan, Pushed to the Edge

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
April 4, 2011


Editor's note: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a fellow and deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She writes extensively about women entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Rwanda. She wrote "The Dressmaker of Khair Khana," a book that tells the story of an Afghan girl whose business created jobs and hope during the Taliban years.

Deadly protests sweeping Afghanistan in reaction to the Quran-burning by Florida Pastor Terry Jones are a defeat for those on all sides fighting for Afghanistan's peaceful future. They could not come at a worse time for the war effort in Afghanistan or the push to win greater support for the war here in the United States.

For the last two weeks, Afghan media have reported both on the Quran-burning and the horrific charges that American soldiers created "kill teams" that targeted Afghan civilians for sport and captured their murders on video, in some cases even posing with their corpses.

Many Afghans don't realize that these few do not stand for the majority of Americans, who respect Islam and vocally condemn the desecration of a holy book by a rogue, publicity-seeking pastor. And that Americans feel overwhelming shame and outrage at the killing of innocents at the hands of U.S. soldiers, a sentiment particularly strong among those in uniform who see such crimes as a brutal desecration of their own standards and values.

In the last several days, American television has rediscovered Afghanistan, following weeks in which the nuclear disaster in Japan and turmoil in the Middle East dominated the airwaves. Disturbing images of throngs of men in the street shouting against the United States and chilling reports of murderous protesters attacking innocent United Nations employees in Mazar-e-Sharif -- and a girls' high school in Kandahar -- are the only pictures from Afghanistan that Americans have seen recently.

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