U.S. Commander in Afghanistan: Why Wouldn't We Apologize for Quran-Burning?

March 6, 2012 - 8:22 AM

Afghanistan NATO Commander

U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, top NATO Commander in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

(CNSNews.com) - Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is defending his apology to Afghans for the burning of Qurans by U.S. troops at a Bagram air base.

Allen said he thinks the U.S. and the people of Afghanistan all want to "move on," although infuriated Muslims, some in Afghan army uniforms, have killed at least six Americans in retaliatory attacks s since the Feb. 20 incident.

In an interview with ABC News that aired Monday evening, Allen said the Quran is "the central word of God" for Muslims: "Why wouldn't we (apologize)?" he asked. "We didn't do it on purpose, but we should apologize, and we did."

President Obama also has apologized, a move that's drawn criticism from his Republican rivals.

The burning of the Qurans -- which reportedly were being used by prisoners to exchange messages -- prompted rioting in Afghanistan and calls for the U.S. troops involved in the incident to be punished.

Allen said the military investigation is continuing: "I don't think for a second that anyone intended to defame the religious publications or the Quran or anyone sought to desecrate the faith. I don't believe that for a second," Allen told ABC.

"We're just going to push on with the investigation...You fix things that are broken and you hold people accountable. That's why you do investigations and we're headed in that direction."

Last Friday, the New York Times reported that a joint Afghan-American investigation into the Quran-burning episode -- separate from the U.S. military inquiry -- will call for "disciplinary review" for at least six people, including American military “leaders” and an Afghan-American interpreter.

Afghanistan's religious leaders, meanwhile, are demanding that the U.S. immediately hand over operations of the prison at Bagram where the book-burning took place.