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Afghan investigator: US burning of Qurans was intentional

Shah Marai / AFP / Getty Images

Afghan demonstrators shout anti-U.S. slogans outside of Bagram airbase on February 21.

KABUL -- The burning of copies of the Quran at an American base in Afghanistan was intentional, said a member of the team investigating the incident that triggered widespread and deadly anti-Western protests.

"We believe it is intentional," Maulavi Khaliqdad, a member of the panel established by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Monday.  "If they burnt one or two copies, then we could have said it could have been a mistake. But they took hundreds of such books to burn. Everyone knew those were religious books."

While the United States said that burning copies of the Muslim holy book last month at Bagram airfield was a unintentional, the incident sparked violence that killed 30, including American troops shot by Afghan soldiers.

Report: 5 soldiers involved in Quran burning

Also on Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least two civilians after detonating explosives at the gates of the base, Afghan officials said.

The bomber targeted a vehicle belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said district governor Kabir Ahmad Rahil, adding there could be foreign casualties, although a NATO spokeswoman said no coalition troops had been harmed in the attack on Bagram.

NBC's Andrea Mitchell speaks with Gen. John Allen and Amb. Ryan Crocker about what they are doing to protect U.S. forces against the wave of protests occurring the aftermath of the burning of Qurans.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was "revenge" for the Quran burning, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a text message to media according to Reuters. 

Doubts are growing that the United States and Afghanistan could narrow sharp differences in negotiations and reach a long-term strategic partnership deal.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement, which Washington and Kabul have been discussing for over a year, will be the framework for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the last foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan.

Afghanistan wants the United States and NATO to agree to stop carrying out night raids on Afghan homes as a precondition for signing an agreement with Washington and a timeline to assume control over detention centers.

Images: Protests erupt over Quran burning

But while the rules covering night raids and air strikes have been tightened, they continue to cause great resentment among many Afghans. Movement on the detention issue has also stalled, causing a deadlock.

"The impasse in talks could threaten the strategic partnership," said an Afghan foreign ministry official.

A senior Afghan government official told Reuters that Kabul has been pressing the Americans hard to hand over the detention facility at NATO's Bagram airbase.

Afghan clerics demand trial of Quran burners at US base

"The United States government thinks Afghanistan does not have the ability or the international standards to run the prison and also insists that night raids can't be stopped overnight as it's a key tool against the insurgents," he said. "The United States government believes that Afghan forces are not yet ready to take over the control of night raids from U.S. troops."

U.S. embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall suggested a pact may not be possible. "We have always said it is more important to get the right agreement than to get an agreement," he said in a statement.

Without a strategic partnership, the United States may find it difficult to maintain a presence in the form of advisers in the country after 2014. That would raise the possibility of prolonged instability in Afghanistan.

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Msnbc.com staff, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.