The U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Monday criticized a Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Quran on September 11, warning the demonstration "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.
"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," Gen. David Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday.
The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, plans to mark the anniversary of al Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington by burning copies of the Muslim holy book. The church insists the event is "neither an act of love nor of hate," but a warning against what it calls the threats posed by Islam.
The event has drawn criticism from Muslims in the United States and overseas, with thousands of Indonesians gathering outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday to protest the planned Quran burning.
With about 120,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops still battling al Qaeda and its allies in the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement, Petraeus warned that burning Qurans "is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems - not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."
And one of his deputies, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, told CNN's "The Situation Room" that event "has already stirred up a lot of discussion and concern" among Afghans.
"We very much feel that this can jeopardize the safety of our men and women that are serving over here in the country," said Caldwell, the head of NATO efforts to train Afghan security forces.