The deaths of 25 Afghans after nearly a week of anti-American rioting in a dozen cities across the country – coupled with a steady stream of anti-American demonstrations across Pakistan over several issues – signal new challenges for the US-led Western alliance as it tries to stabilise the region and pull its forces out of Afghanistan.
Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid reports from Washington.
The violence in Afghanistan was sparked off by the burning of the Koran in the US. The rioting began in Mazar-e-Sharif when the UN office was ransacked and seven UN officials and guards were brutally murdered.
The demonstrations then spread south to Kandahar where over two days some 13 people were killed. After six days it had spread to the eastern provinces and the capital, Kabul.
There was anger among some Western observers at President Hamid Karzai, who drew attention to the Koran burning. Most Afghans did not know about it until he condemned the burning publicly a few days before the riots started.