NATO forces in Afghanistan apologise for 'highly offensive' propaganda leaflet

Image showed white dog with section of Taliban's banner superimposed on its side fleeing from lion


Reuters September 06, 2017
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL: A senior US commander in Afghanistan apologised, on Wednesday, for a "highly offensive" propaganda leaflet containing a passage from the Quran used in the Taliban militants' banner superimposed on to the image of a dog.

The image, distributed by US forces in Parwan province, north of Kabul on Tuesday, showed a white dog with a section of the Taliban's banner superimposed on its side fleeing from the lion. The banner contains a passage from the Quran in Arabic.

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"The design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam," Major General James Linder said in a statement. "I sincerely apologise. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide," he said, adding that an investigation would be held "to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable".

Parwan Governor Mohammad Hasem condemned the leaflet as "unforgivable" and said an investigation would be held. "Those who have committed this unforgivable mistake in the publicity, propaganda or media section of the coalition forces will be tried and punished," he said. The incident highlights one of the challenges facing international forces in Afghanistan, most of whom are from
non-Muslim cultures, despite the efforts Western forces have generally taken to avoid stoking anti-foreigner sentiment by creating offence on religious grounds.

In 2012, US commanders were forced to apologise after copies of the Quran and other religious texts were mistakenly burned at Bagram Air Base near Kabul. The incident sparked large demonstrations in Kabul and other provinces in which several people were killed. On another occasion, a film of US Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters caused widespread offence, prompting an investigation and criminal charges.

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Information operations, conducted by the government and coalition forces, have long been used to try to persuade local people to turn against the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Above the picture of the lion and the dog, the leaflet urged people to report insurgents to the authorities. "Take back your freedom from the terrorist dogs and cooperate with coalition forces so they can target your enemy and eliminate them," it said.

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