“Afghans and the world’s Muslims should rise against the foreigners. We have no patience left,” said one police officer in central Kabul, who has worked at the same checkpoint since he joined the force seven months ago. He looked at his colleague, who stood next to him, nodding. “We both will attack the foreign military people.”
Police officers interviewed at four posts in the Afghan capital voiced the anti-American sentiments on Thursday, the same day that two U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan were fatally shot by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform. The killings were the latest apparent incident of fratricide aimed at Americans within a nominally united U.S.-Afghan force, and they have added to misgivings among many U.S. troops about the loyalty of their Afghan counterparts.
In the wake of the Koran burning that came to light Tuesday at the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, some uniformed Afghan officers have worked tirelessly to keep the peace through three days of demonstrations and riots.
At least three protesters were killed Thursday, bringing the week’s death toll to 10, as some police officers were ordered to fire on demonstrators. More were injured Friday, and several were feared dead, in clashes that erupted when Afghans staged more demonstrations following the end-of-the week noon prayer services. A restive crowd in the western city of Herat converged near a U.S. military base, residents there said, and thousands gathered in eastern Kabul demanding retribution. About 100 protesters massed outside the Ministry of Defense in the capital, dispersing only when police fired into the air.
It has been Afghan civilians, not Taliban insurgents, who have taken the lead in the latest violence, and in five interviews, members of the Afghan police force made clear that they and others in positions of authority share in the anger and resentment.
“Those behind the act should be asked about their deed and must be punished,” said an officer near a U.S. military base in Kabul. “If I find the opportunity, I would shoot them in the head.”
The police officers would discuss their sentiments only on the condition of anonymity, saying they would risk their livelihoods if they were to sympathize publicly with those fomenting violence. But their comments left little doubt that the fallout over the U.S. military’s mishandling of the Korans includes fresh hostility among a crucial population of workaday Afghans, including some who man security checkpoints near Western installations.