KABUL - The desecration of Holy Qurans at a Nato base in Afghanistan advanced the Taliban’s cause and any repeat of similar “negligence” by Western forces would be disastrous, the Afghan army chief of staff has warned.

The destruction of the holy books, which the United States described as unintentional, triggered widespread protests and fatal attacks on US troops by Afghan security forces and heavily strained ties between Kabul and Washington.

“The enemy (Taliban) will enlarge it and make use of it in such a way to instigate everybody,” General Sher Mohammad Karimi told Reuters in an interview. “They took advantage of this incident. They will take advantage.”

Karimi, sitting in his office at the heavily guarded Ministry of Defence, lamented NATO’s failure to grasp the sensitivities regarding Afghanistan’s culture and religion during the United States’ longest war, now in its eleventh year. “Those friends who have come here to help us are not doing it the way we asked them too,” said Karimi, adding he was “very concerned” by the burning of Holy Qurans at Bagram air base about an hour’s drive north of Kabul. “God forbid if this mistake is repeated there will be a lot of trouble next time.”