By Barbara Starr
In the latest sign of how strained U.S. and Afghan military relations have become, a senior U.S. official tells CNN, "There is a strong sense inside the Obama administration that the Afghans did not do enough to quell the violence" that has erupted since the burning Qurans and other religious material a week ago.
"We are not going to settle for what has happened to our troops in recent days," the official said. He declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the situation. This official has access to the latest intelligence about the situation and is involved in discussions inside the administration.
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, said the Afghans have not been totally absent in trying to stop the violence.
"I think we need to bear in mind that the Afghan security forces, throughout this whole process, have been seeking to quell these demonstrations," Crocker said in an exclusive interview on CNN's "State of the Union."
"They've done so with loss of life on their side as well as some of the protesters, and they have been defending U.S. installations. So they are very much in this fight trying to protect us," Crocker added.
Still, the official who spoke to CNN is reflecting a sentiment felt across several levels of the U.S. military about the critical lack of trust that has erupted.
"There will have to be a new building of trust," the official said. But what can be done to fix it - and what happens if it not fixed - remains the tougher question.
He emphasized that Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta want a specific commitment from the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to quell the violence, as well as to provide new security measures at Afghan ministries where U.S. military personnel work.
Allen has specifically told his commanders he will not authorize the return of personnel to the ministries until those measures are in place and he is convinced they are working, the official said.
Crocker told CNN that he, too, has pulled all diplomatic staff from Afghan ministries until things calm down.
"Administration officials are appalled by what happened at the Interior Ministry," the official said, referring to the killing of two U.S. military personnel there by an assailant. The official said there is growing belief this was "an inside job" by someone who had access to the secure area in which the Americans worked.
As to the future of the U.S.- Afghan relationship, the official said "a lot depends on the Afghan commitment to stronger measures to curtail violence."
But the official also acknowledged that if the Afghan government does not step up, it's unclear what, if any, additional response the United States might have beyond its strong rhetoric. The Afghan ministers of defense and interior canceled a planned visit to Washington this week, to stay in their country and work on the situation.
A senior U.S. military official acknowledged that for the troops and their commanders, the issue of trust "is on the table right now. I would be lying if I told you it wasn't."
Gen. Allen Friday visited troops in the field and in an impassioned speech told them not to enact revenge, after several U.S. troops have been killed and wounded in the recent violence.
But the ministry killings are generating exceptionally raw feelings because they took place inside a secure Afghan government building.
"There is no doubt an incident like this chips away at trust," the military official told CNN. "I am not going to tell you there hasn't been concern."
Both officials said the United States believes many of the violent demonstrations have sprung up spontaneously and while the Taliban has claimed some credit so far, there is no evidence of a broadly organized effort.