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US officials urge 'stay the course' in wake of Afghan violence

As attacks on allied forces in Afghanistan continued Sunday in the wake of Quran burnings, US officials reaffirmed their commitment to preventing Al Qaeda advances.

By Staff writer / February 26, 2012

An Afghan man shouts anti-U.S slogans near a pile of wood and tires set on fire by protesters outside the US military base in Bagram, north of Kabul. More than 2,000 Afghans protested reports that foreign troops had improperly disposed of copies of the Quran and other religious items.

Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

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As attacks on allied forces in Afghanistan continued Sunday in the wake of Quran burnings by American troops, US officials reaffirmed their commitment to the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and to preventing Al Qaeda advances in the country.

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"This is not the time to decide that we're done here," US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said on CNN's State of the Union. "We have got to redouble our efforts. We've got to create a situation in which Al Qaeda is not coming back."

“Tensions are running very high here and I think we need to let things calm down, return to a more normal atmosphere, and then get on with business,” said Amb. Crocker, who served in the Bush administration as ambassador to Iraq. "If we decide we're tired of it, Al Qaeda and the Taliban certainly aren't.”

Also speaking on CNN, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, who is now working on President Obama’s re-election campaign, said, “What the president's trying to do now is get us to a point where we can hand off the security of Afghanistan to the Afghans and that we can bring our troops home."

On Sunday, a grenade thrown by protesters at a US base in northern Afghanistan wounded seven NATO troops, identified in some reports as Americans.

More than 30 people have been killed in clashes since Tuesday when it was first reported that copies of the Muslim holy book and other religious materials belonging to Taliban prisoners had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a large US base north of Kabul.

Those killed include a US lieutenant colonel and a major shot in the head with what is believed to have been a silencer-equipped pistol inside a heavily guarded Interior Ministry building Saturday.

The New York Times reported Sunday that according to three Afghan security officials familiar with the case, the main suspect worked in the ministry for more than a year as a driver.

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