Analysis: Well, That Was Dumb

File photo shows coalition forces dropping leaflets over Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock

File photo shows coalition forces dropping leaflets over Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock

Seriously? The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for about 16 years, but at least some in the military apparently are still unfamiliar with the basics of the culture there. 

Case in point: The U.S. military recently dropped leaflets all over an Afghan province depicting a lion chasing a dog that had what was supposed to be a version of the Taliban flag imprinted on it. The text above the image said, “Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs. Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them," according to the Los Angeles Times.

But here's the thing. The military apparently didn't remember that the Taliban flag, like al Qaeda's and ISIS's, appropriates the Shahada, a basic statement of faith in Islam that says there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. It is not a terrorist slogan, it's the core belief and common recitation of all the world's Muslims. It's written on Saudi Arabia's national flag, among others.

So not only could one interpret the leaflet to show the U.S.-led coalition literally chasing down Islam itself, but the Shahada was printed on a dog, which is widely considered unclean in majority-Muslim countries.

Predictably, Afghans were not happy about this. Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan who had been chosen by the Bush administration to lead the country after the U.S. invasion in 2001, condemned the "highly offensive" leaflets in the "strongest terms."

"The former president calls on the U.S. to refrain from playing with our religious and national values for its psychological operations in the name of the War on Terrorism," a message on Karzai's Twitter feed Thursday read.

The governor of the Parwan province, where the leaflets were dropped, threatened that those "who have committed this unforgivable mistake" will be "tried and punished," according to The New York Times.

Maj. Gen. James Linder, the American Special Operations commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement Wednesday, "I sincerely apologize... We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide."

“There is no excuse for this mistake. I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again," Linder said.

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