President Obama did the right thing when he apologized to Hamid Karzai for the Koran burnings in Afghanistan, but not for the reason he stated last night.
In an interview with ABC News' Bob Woodruff, the president defended his apology saying it "calmed things down" in Afghanistan and made sure "our troops who are there right now are not placed in further danger." He added, "My criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from the folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to be best to protect our folks and make sure they can accomplish their mission." Unfortunately, apologizing to a leader with as little grip on his country as Karzai can only do so much to quell the anger among everyday citizens and Afghan troops.
The latest evidence of this comes Thursday morning with news that two more U.S. troops were killed in a shooting by an Afghan solider and a literacy teacher in southern Afghanistan. The incident followed a Feb. 25 shooting in which an Afghan gunman killed two U.S. military advisers, which led to hundreds of advisers being evacuated from government locations, which in turn followed a Feb. 23 shooting where an Afghan soldier killed two U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan. On Monday, at least nine people were killed and 12 wounded when an explosion rocked the front gate of the NATO-led international Security Assistance Force base in Jalalabad. Each attack has been blamed on the burning of Korans by U.S. troops.
To be sure, Karzai attempted to quell the resentment following President Obama's controversial apology, condemning the attacks as "inhuman and un-Islamic" and saying assailants "would earn nothing but growing public hatred and punishment before Allah, the Almighty." Unfortunately, growing evidence has shown that Karzai has little control over his people or Afghan soliders and police officers. Last month, the Pentagon released data showing that "75 percent of the more than 45 insider attacks since 2007 occurred in the last two years." If that weren't enough evidence that Karzai has lost control, the necessity of widespread election fraud during his last presidential bid confirms it.
Still, though Karzai may be a paper tiger, that doesn't diminish the importance of apologizing for what was an un-American act. As Allison Stranger at CNN wrote earlier, "Book burning is not something typically associated with freedom-of-speech-loving America. When books are burned in a country desperately in need of more books, where only 43% of men and 12% of women are literate, it should prompt questions." She added "The cost of losing what we are fighting to uphold is far too high. Thankfully, President Obama understands that."