Feb. 24 - A NATO official says despite widespread demonstrations over the burning of the Koran by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Friday was calmer than expected after Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an appeal for restraint. Deborah Lutterbeck reports
Outrage on the streets of Kabul After Friday prayers more outcry after copies of the Koran were burned at a NATO base. At least two American military personnel were killed in violent protests this week. Now there are calls to put those responsible for the burning on trial -- a decision that has not yet been made. Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson in Kabul was made available to Reuters by the Pentagon. (SOUNDBITE) (English)BRIGADIER GENERAL CARSTEN JACOBSON, SAYING: "The legal process has not started yet. We are in the fact finding stage of the investigation. So, legal steps have to be taken after that. " He did say, despite widespread protests, the violence is not escalating. (SOUNDBITE) (English)BRIGADIER GENERAL CARSTEN JACOBSON, SAYING: "After a series of three days of demonstrations this Friday m therefore was a lot calmer than was anticipated. We are very grateful, not only to the Afghan police and the security service, but also to the government of the President of Afghanistan who called for calm yesterday in a statement, and obviously, that had effect." The Taliban had urged Afghan security forces to quote "turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders." (SOUNDBITE) (English)BRIGADIER GENERAL CARSTEN JACOBSON, SAYING: "The fact that the insurgents did not achieve their aim of inflaming a situation that was highly inflammable in particular in the beginning of the week. Did not achieve more success in bringing more violence into the demonstration as they were unfolding . And did not achieve that this got out of hand . This all is a promising sign that we have a basis upon which we can build . It is a set back,and that is why we are not only sorry but we have to look into the consequences of what happened." Analysts say the burnings could make it even more difficult for U.S.-led NATO forces to win the hearts and minds of Afghans and bring the Taliban and Afghan government to the negotiating table ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.