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. Name here

    Alls fair in love and war

    April 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      Bingo, they treat us like garbage, we should be seeing on there bodies and burning there koran just to prove a point.

      April 18, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheerup6

      All fair in love and war?? seriously. If they say they were right in killing 3000 poeple on 09/11, do you think they are right??. This is shameful. Nothing is right. It has to be stopped but lets change our own mind set first. We are their to liberate Afghans from Taliban who pose danger to everyone else. Burning Quran, pieing on bodies and cutting limbs is not what we are there for...

      April 19, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. ronvan

    While there is a mention that at least one of these look like an aftan soldier it really makes no difference! Multiple tours in a war zone changes a persons mind and morals The Aftans, and these other countries take this as a grain of salt because they have been doing it for centuries! And yet WE think that we are going to change them! NOT!!

    April 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • ZippinOnBy

      Who are the "Aftans"?

      April 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pedro'

    Gosh. I wonder why they don't like us over there?

    April 18, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoeJoeJoe

      @Jerry:

      In case you weren't aware, our enemy in this engagement is not the people of Afghanistan. They are our allies. We are there to liberate them from the taliban and to destroy al qaeda.

      April 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dallastexas75205

    I LOVE IT, they should have these pictures up every day. Any suicide bomber should be shown as the coward trash dogs they are.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NukeTim

    The news media ought to be ashamed.

    And regretful, because soldiers will be killed as a result of their publishing those photos.

    I hope the families sue them on a regular basis.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pedro'

    We shouldn't even be over there our soldiers are being killed for nothing. Bring them back here to their families and friends.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • jerry

      you don't see war reporting on the news do you? So how would you know what is going on? obama has a news blackout...if you really knew what was going on you just might not vote for obama...since he ran against the war and george bush (not mccain)...you have drunk the marxist obama cool-aid.

      April 18, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    Who cares. War isn't pretty. I seem to remember videos online of terrorist beheading westerners and where were all the upset muslims when that was going on. F 'em. Better yet, tactical thermo-nuclear device comes to my mind...a few of those strategically placed and we can be done with all this non-sense.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoeJoeJoe

      So first you suggest that we allow ourselves to become as depraved as our terrorist enemies, then you suggest genocide. Nice.

      April 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoeJoeJoe

      @Micheal:

      So first you suggest that we allow ourselves to become as depraved as our terrorist enemies, then you suggest genocide. Nice.

      April 18, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Goya

    OK...American soldiers standing next to Afghanistan police/military having pictures taken with all men smiling. I dare say thuis may actually bring the two parties closer together as they have found common ground. Remember, when Americans leave the Afghanistan peace keepers will remain. So, perhaps it is good that Americans share in their culture a bit to bring us closer together? Hmmmm...might garner RESPECT??? Don't know. I'm polluted with our culture and mores and not theirs.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mickey1313

    Why are we in Afghanistan, we need to pull out all troops, and bomb the living crap it off them. Stop protecting the"rights" of the enemy, they do not excited that to us do they.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hilary Rosen

    Sanctimonious liberals are burning with self-righteous indignation.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tina

    Seriously – looks like afghan soldiers right there in the pics with them. Where's the outrage over that?

    April 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Larry L

    Everybody wants a nice, clean war with no photos so the American people don't have to endure the "shocking reality" of the conflict. Too many Service-members return with those photos forever burned into their minds. We need to stop allowing "chickenhawks" like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum lead us down the path if we can't take the view.

    April 18, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mark

    what the heck is wrong with people? these are great pictures of a worthy kill to be proud of, whether it was the afghan or the US soldiers, good for them. good for all of us.

    April 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • justin

      2 nd the moition

      April 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. justin

    kill them all thats the only way you can stop them from breeding.every man woman and child .remember all the people jumping out of top of the towers to keep from burning to death. no mercy they are all trash killem before they can do it again.god bless are troops.

    April 18, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ben

    O I'm sorry the Taliban never do anything like cut of the heads of reporters, soldiers and civilians alike. Bombings that target civilians in masses, and lets not forget the oppression and slaughter of their own people. But I digress, Americans are one of the only country's that follow the "the roles of war", so every one stop jumping at the first chance you get to attack the men and women how risk everything for you.

    April 18, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ned

      I wonder what will you do if someone invades USA and kills locals and take pix...you wouldn't join 'em i believe...

      April 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • kash

      Yep.. our soldiers are so much like taliban.. right??

      April 18, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      Thanks Ben, thousands of forgotten vets appreciate that.

      April 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • tonyl

      Yes, Taliban does this kind of deplorable thing but that still does not justify our soldiers sinking to the same level and doing the same. You are looking for excuses and as Americans we are suppose to stay above it.

      April 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dani3l

      And we should stoop to that level? We're better than that. Our troops need to be better than that. Behaving this way only tells the Afghanis that the Taliban is right.

      April 19, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      I agree, except for the fact that this war is fought not for freedom or safety, but for the profit of the military industrial complex, and the American 1%

      April 19, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • harry

      So if taliban does that, it justifies us doing it? You are so ignorant and unAmerican.

      April 19, 2012 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Faye

      Excuse me, stop with "we owe everything to the soldiers crap" America does not have a mandatory draft....People join the military branches for the same reasons people go to work everyday- A PAYCHECK. It's a job no different than any other and is worst for purposely seeking out oppressed minorities because they figure like much of America, they minorities don't have much opportunities here. Americans hate it when its depraved activities are put on display.

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