U.S. forces apologized Tuesday for “highly offensive” leaflets that were recently dropped in the eastern Afghan province of Parwan, ones that contained an image religiously insensitive to “both Muslims and the religion of Islam.”
The image depicted a lion chasing a dog — an animal considered unclean in Islam — with the Taliban flag imprinted on it. The leaflet also urged Afghan civilians to cooperate with coalition forces and turn over insurgents.
The provincial governor of Parwan, Mohammed Hasem, called it an “unforgivable mistake” and told Reuters that those in the coalition forces who dropped the leaflets would be “tried and punished.” Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, told the Associated Press that protests could be expected because of the incident.
Maj. Gen. James Linder, the commanding general of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, issued a statement apologizing for the leaflet, though he did not comment further on the contents. Linder added that he would order an investigation into the incident.
“There is no excuse for this mistake,” Linder wrote. “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.”
Neither Operation Resolute Support nor the NATO Special Operations Component Commanded immediately responded to VICE News’ request for comment on the nature of the leaflets and how many had been dropped.
Leaflets are a standard tool used by the U.S. and coalition forces to disseminate information about looming offensives and to persuade Afghans to turn away from the Taliban and other groups. But the latest incident by coalition forces highlights the uphill battle in winning hearts and minds in the ongoing 16-year war.