My Last Tour: Kabul Protest

The black banner to the right reads “No Democracy – We want just Islam.”
Protestors in Kabul, note the black banner to the right reads “No Democracy – We want just Islam.”
TAMPA (2009-10-27) -

The streets of Kabul, Afghanistan were filled with angry demonstrators and Afghan National Police Sunday. Getting caught up in it all was Tampa airman Rex Temple whom WUSF has been following in our series My Last Tour. He spoke with WUSF yesterday just hours after the encounter.

For security reasons, we cannot reveal the planned mission or its location. But we can tell you that Senior Master Sgt. Temple was convoy commander. His convoy included several MRAPs or Mine Resistant Armored Protection vehicles which are larger than an armored Humvee.

Temple said their route took them along a major highway on the outskirts of Kabul.

“We saw a large group of people coming towards us and the ANP, the police, were already set up and it seemed like they were directing the people,” Temple said. “But, as we got closer we stopped our vehicles we noticed it was a very large crowd. And they were carrying banners, but they were written in Dari. So, we weren’t sure what they said until we saw the English ones.”

Temple’s interrupter crawled up into the turret of the lead vehicle and asked a man on the side of the road ‘what was happening?’

“And the gentleman told him this is the result of the allegation of the US troops burning the Koran in Wardak Province over a week ago,” Temple said.

Temple talked with the mullah and religious officer assigned to the Afghan National Army unit he’s mentoring. They told Temple that it’s an example of the propaganda spread by the Taliban. But, Temple did read a report that a Koran was burned by some drug addicts and they the Taliban blamed the coalition forces.

Temple who was in the lead vehicle said the Afghan National Police tried to redirect his convoy down a side street. But, it was unfamiliar territory and Temple did not want his vehicles trapped in the narrow streets of Kabul.

“Plus, I had no idea what the crowd was doing and then all of the sudden the crowd started running and breaking off,” Temple said. “And, what I didn’t realize is that my other vehicles were calling and saying ‘hey It looks like they’re trying to flank us from behind.’”

He said there’s always a concern for safety, but even more so, he feared having to fire if the crowd charged the vehicles.

“We didn’t want to start any incidents there even though we had lots of bullets and were armed,” Temple said. “So the team leader made the decision that we were going to run around and head back to camp.”

News reports say university students were responsible for the protest. But, Temple also saw as older men and middle aged men.

Temple took photographs. One shows a banner in English that said: “No Democracy - We want just Islam.” And he wondered if the protestors knew of the irony that their demonstration is an act of democracy.

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