There has been widespread fury in Afghanistan and parts of neighboring Pakistan over the burning of the Quran at the Bagram Air Base. Several U.S. and NATO servicemen have been killed by angry Afghans, and violent demonstrations continue days after the incident despite the swift and sincere apologies issued by President Barack Obama and the chief of army operations in Afghanistan.

The "inadvertent" burning of old Qurans was an inexcusable blunder on our part and shows how culturally insensitive our troops and advisers are, despite our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade. How could we have forgotten the riots in Sweden following the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad or the anger after a burning of the Quran by a pastor in Florida?

Muslims are thoroughly convinced that Americans are anti-Islam and willfully insult and denigrate their religion and the Quran. All our apologies and sincere "mea culpas" will not convince or appease the Afghans now, or ever.

The sad fact is that they view our presence there as a despised occupation, not as a nation building exercise that we want it to be. President Hamid Karzai is quick to criticize the U.S. and rarely has any praise for our help. I think it is naive to believe that they want us to instill democratic values and help them build a more civil, more just Afghanistan, with equality and better treatment for women and children. They have made this amply clear in words and deeds, which are now increasingly hostile and violent.

I believe that this is a good time to withdraw from Afghanistan. With Osama bin Laden gone, there is no reason for our continuing presence in lands that resent our "occupation." Bring our troops home and leave Afghanistan and Pakistan to their own destiny.

Vijay Abhyankar, Bel Air