April 18th, 2012
04:42 PM ET

Photos just latest issue hounding U.S. military in Afghanistan

Wednesday’s release by the Los Angeles Times of photos showing U.S. soldiers posing with what the newspaper says were insurgents’ bodies in Afghanistan has launched the latest in a string of recent investigations into U.S. military members’ conduct in that country.

A U.S. soldier provided the photos to the Times, saying that the photos reveal a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised troops’ safety, and that he hoped that the photos’ publication would stop those shortcomings, the Times reported. Times Editor Davan Maharaj said the paper decided that "publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan."

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force has blasted the photos, saying they represent "a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values."

The Pentagon is investigating the photos, which allegedly were taken in 2010.

"An investigation that could lead to disciplinary measures is under way," Pentagon spokesman George Little said. "Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system."

The photos are just the latest of several high-profile U.S. military incidents in Afghanistan prompting U.S. investigation this year. Among the others:

March: Soldier accused of killing 17 civilians in two villages

On March 11, a U.S. solider left an Army outpost in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district, walked into two nearby villages and killed 17 Afghan civilians, U.S. authorities allege.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with 17 counts of murder with premeditation, for which he could face the death penalty. He also faces six counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault and is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after being flown from Afghanistan a few days after the killings.

U.S. officials haven’t publicly suggested any motive in the slayings. An Afghan general charged with leading Afghanistan’s investigation into the killings told reporter Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network that villagers have alleged that Bales was upset over an injury to a U.S. colleague. In response to these suggestions, a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN last month that a soldier at Bales' base had lost a leg in an explosion three or four days earlier, but that there was no reason to believe Bales had been present at the scene of that blast.

The U.S. government in March paid more than $800,000 to the families of the victims, Afghan officials said - $50,000 for each of the dead, and $10,000 for each of six wounded.

Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, has accused U.S. military prosecutors of blocking access to information in the case, including witnesses.

February: Qurans burned at Bagram Air Base

Afghanistan erupted in violent protests in February after U.S. troops burned religious materials - including Qurans - that had been removed from the detainee library at the Bagram Air Base's prison.

U.S. officials have said the destruction of religious materials was inadvertent, and that books had been removed from the library because there were writings in them from detainees that officials believed were potentially extremist messages.

But days of protests and attacks in the country followed, leaving dozens of people dead - including at least four U.S. soldiers - and hundreds of others wounded.

U.S. President Barack Obama apologized for the incident in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Taliban Islamist militia rejected the apology and called on Afghans to take revenge "until the doers of such inhumane actions are prosecuted and punished."

This month, an International Security Assistance Force official said that investigations by U.S. and Afghan authorities were finished, and that it wasn't yet clear what actions Gen. John Allen, the ISAF commander, would take. Possible decisions include taking no action; recommending criminal charges; and issuing written reprimands, the official said, according to CNN's Barbara Starr.

January: Video shows U.S. Marines urinating on bodies

In January, a video surfaced on YouTube showing U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of slain Afghans.

In the 39-second video, one of the men says, "Have a great day, buddy." A voice asks, "You got it on the video?" to which another voice responds, "Yeah." Another jokes, "Golden, like a shower."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the U.S. government to investigate and hand down the harshest punishment possible. The Marine Corps at the time said it was investigating the actions, and news reports in February indicated Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called the video "utterly deplorable," was briefed on the findings.

In a radio message posted to jihadist websites in March, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri used the incident to call on Afghans to rise up against Western troops.

"This act represents their values," al-Zawahiri said,"and this is their view toward other people in general and the Muslims in particular, and this is their way of treating us."

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Filed under: Afghanistan
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Mark Wells

    When I see the Taliban dragging the bodies of our troops or citizens through the streets it infuriates me. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard. On the other hand, I hope our troops are not punished too harshly for this. They are not setting the bodies on fire and dragging them through the streets. By now though, they should realize these photos always seem to get out.

    April 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mary

    Gentlemen, lets not forget why we're really over there... or do you just follow what the media tells you to think.
    GET A CLUE! Bushco/Bin landen equaling the Caryle Group is what got us there. It's all about the oil guys.
    Bin Laden was the scapegoat for 911 so we could so we could get to the Trans Afghan pipline the direct route from the Caspian Basin to China.
    So those fingers you point are really pointing back at Bush. Wanta know more google "hereinreality.com"

    April 18, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank R.

      Bush & Co. may have got us there, but OBAMA has had 4 YEARS to GET US OUT!

      April 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ned

    This smells like Vietnam and will end like Vietnam....pointless mercenary war. Get out ASAP!
    (who wants to die for nothing there are plenty bridges at home to dive)

    April 18, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mary

    Another piece of news to chew on, abortions, inner city violence, and Satan's children destroying the family unit has done more harm than any act of "terror" placed apon us.
    Our own country commits ten folder the terror on its own citizens than the Taliban could ever fathom.

    April 18, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Faye

      Thank you... I am sick of the white-washed view of America. America, in my opinion, is a very depraved environment. It is a breeding ground of upper-class leeches sucking every ounce from the poor (the middle class is disappearing). If you're not among the rich here, you're an economic slave. Regarding historical facts, it's nothing admirable about being an American.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mary

    Obama is just doing as he's told Frank R.

    April 18, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tonyl

    This has been the longest war in our history. Our soldiers are exhausted and burnt out. Some of these soldiers has mental issues and psychological problems. Obama is trying to bring this war to an end but the GOP war hogs (not hawks) want to continue the war to punish Afghans or Muslims. But they are blind to see that they are hurting our own soldiers and the nation. Most of our recent wars are fought for the war profiteers. Bush/Cheney's friends and family. GOP has weaken this nation with wars for their personal gains. GOP is the real culprit.

    April 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DevilDogOz

    Enough with the Bush Cheney discussion – this president's had more than enough time to fix an economy and get the US outta here and has decided not to do it. It's much easier to take a page from congress and kick the can down the road. Try actual leadership, not just sticking a finger up to see which way the wind blows. Mary, what time does choir practice start there for the Westboro Baptist Church?

    April 19, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      Are you that ignorant? You do know that every action that Obama takes the fools in the gop block it. If Americans did there job in 2010, and given super majority to the democrats, we would be out of war and back on track. Remember, when Clinton took over he had the biggest deficit in us history, and in 8 years he gave us or first ever surplus. Then 8 years of bush hosed that. Give him 4 more years, he isn't a magician

      April 19, 2012 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. 2nd Lt. William Laws Calley

    At least it wasn't a village of women and children this time.

    April 19, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Aaron

    If this will fire up insurgent actions against our troops and make a ton of people angry in Afghanistan, then why in the hell are you people fanning the flames by showing these photos and giving this issue so much coverage. Moronic.

    April 19, 2012 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. First Sergeant

    If we knew these pictures were out 2 years ago, we should of dealt with it then. "So call" news makes it very hard for us currently serving in Afghanistan. Do get me wrong, these individuals need to be dealt with, but I am sure we can do a better job keeping it "in house" aka America.

    April 19, 2012 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. Been There

    This is what years of war does to the minds of soldiers. Dont blame them, fire every admiral & general & make it illegal for them to contract or work for the fed gov't. That will change things. The soldiers are there dying for the ambitions of the brass, not an achievable cause.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. John

    This all boils down to one fact.... people make mistakes. It's hard to get around this fact.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. hubert39

    Nobody ever said the USA were the good guys. Look ar our history over the past 235 plus years. If we wanted something.... we killed and took it. We are not the greatest nation...the USA is the most powerful nation on earth. MIGHT MAKES RIGHT. God is on our side because we write the history.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. Len Grady

    Ron Paul 2012, the only peace candidate running for office that has a 40 year history of doing EXACTLY what he says he will do. He will end these wars and bring our troops home. Additionally he will avoid going to war and utilize diplomacy instead with any future apparent conflicts.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. Eduardo

    All this war...for what??? Oil??? I dont understand in who's right mind do you think you can go to another country and try to take and dictate what's not even your to begin with. I guess the Bush family are still in control.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Jonesyman

      That's a valid point ... in the case of Iraq, but we're talking about Afghanistan here. Don't forget it was AL Qaeda in Afghanistan who first came to their old ally the U.S. and TOOK thousands of lives (twice what was lost at Pearl Harbor) in an attempt to DICTATE American laws and policy. By any stretch of international law that is an act equivalent to declaring war.

      Yes, taking pics with bodies is tacky, but it's understandably hard to feel for the guys who wanted to pick the fight.

      April 19, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      There is no oil in Afghanistan.

      April 19, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
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