A senior US military commander in Afghanistan has apologized for a “highly offensive” leaflet which showed a passage from the Koran superimposed onto the image of a dog – an animal which is considered unclean in Islam.
The brochure showed a white dog with a section of the Taliban’s flag – which contains a passage from the Koran in Arabic – superimposed on its side. The image showed the dog fleeing from a lion.
Above the picture of the lion and the dog, the brochure – which was distributed by US forces in Parwan province – urged people to report insurgents to 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, according to Reuters.
The Taliban responded to the leaflet on Wednesday, saying it proves America’s “hatred” of Islam and makes clear that the war in Afghanistan “is a war between Islam and unbelief.”
The governor of Parwan province, Mohammad Hasem, also condemned the leaflet as “unforgivable,” adding that 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.
Major General James Linder, a senior US military commander, has apologized for the leaflet, saying in a statement that its design “mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.”
“I sincerely apologize. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide,” he continued.
Linder said an investigation would be held to “determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable.”
It’s not the first time the US military has found itself in hot water over insensitive actions towards Islam.
Bagram was the scene of controversy in February 2012, when Korans were mistakenly burned at the base alongside damaged books and texts from the airfield’s library. The incident prompted widespread protests and led to multiple deaths.
The most recent controversy comes amid US President Donald Trump’s U-turn on Afghanistan, in which he abandoned his previous position of disengagement.
In a new push against the Taliban, Trump has vowed to “expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.”
More than 173,000 civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been killed since the beginning of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, according to the Costs of War Project run by Brown University’s Watson Institute.