Karzai’s Response to Obama’s Apology: Put U.S. Troops on Trial and Punish Them

Terence P. Jeffrey | February 26, 2012 | 12:16pm EST
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama at the presidential palace in Kabul in 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - Three days after President Barack Obama dispatched his ambassador to Afghanistan to hand deliver a personal letter from the president of the United States to Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologizing because U.S. forces at Bagram Air Force Base had mistakenly burnt some Korans, Karzai has responded to the gesture in a statement broadcast live on Afghan television.

Karzai, according to a BBC translation of his remarks made Sunday, told the Afghan people he was speaking to them after discussing the matter with “jihadi leaders,” “prominent scholars,” and Afghan elected officials, and that he spoke for the “pure sentiments” of the “Afghan nation” and the “Islamic world,” when he said: “We call on the US government to bring the perpetrators of the act to justice and put them on trial and punish them.”

At the same time Karzai was demanding the prosecution and punishment of U.S. troops involved in the Koran-burning incident, he conceded that the U.S. government had indicated that the Koran burning “was not deliberate.”

"We all know that regrettably some days ago an American soldier burnt our Holy Koran,” Karzai said, according to the BBC translation. “We condemn this vicious act in the strongest terms. The government and the people, scholars, tribal dignitaries, spiritual figures of Afghanistan, the educated people of our country all share the people's feelings... Our people's sensitiveness is right and is laudable.”

"The US government says that such act was carried out because of ignorance and lack of knowledge,” Karzai said. “This incident happened as a result of the ignorance of the US military officer about our vision about Islam and not recognizing the Koran. It was not deliberate."

"Today,” Karzai said, “we had a detailed session attended by jihadi leaders, prominent scholars, speakers of both houses--the lower house and the senate--the esteemed chief justice, vice presidents and other dignitaries and our government. We discussed the matter of the burning of the Holy Koran. Representing the Afghan nation and their pure sentiments, in fact the Islamic world, once again we call on the US government to bring the perpetrators of the act to justice and put them on trial and punish them."

While lauding the Afghan people for the “sensitiveness” to the Koran burning, and calling for the prosecution and punishment of the U.S. military personnel involved, Karzai appealed to Afghans to calm down and allow the Afghan and U.S. governments to move “pursue the matter.”

"We should all try to calm down and by calming down we should not allow the enemies of security and peace and progress of the people of Afghanistan to misuse or hurt our people's property or our people's lives by using the people's sensitiveness,” said Karzai. “We hope our people will be calm and develop the country. They should be sure that the government of Afghanistan and all its institutions will pursue the matter and we and the US government will pursue the matter."

The White House did not publicly release the three-page letter that Obama sent to Karzai on Thursday. However, the New York  Times reported on Friday, that Karzai’s press office said two of the sentences in Obama’s letter said: “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”

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