May 25, 2018
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Soldiers, Marines punished for misconduct in Afghanistan

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Six Army soldiers and three Marines escaped criminal charges, but received administrative punishments for their involvement in two incidents of misconduct in Afghanistan that roiled relations with Afghans, U.S. military officials said Monday.

The soldiers were disciplined for the mistaken burning of Qurans earlier this year at a U.S. base in Afghanistan, and the Marines were punished for their participation in a video that showed them urinating on the corpses of Taliban insurgents.

Discipline against a Navy sailor in the Quran burnings was dismissed, and the Marine Corps said that it will announce discipline against additional Marines in the urination case at a later date.

U.S. military leaders widely condemned the incidents, which were both revealed earlier this year. The Quran burning triggered riots in the street and retribution killings, including two U.S. troops who were shot by an Afghan soldier and two U.S. military advisers who were gunned down at their desks at the Interior Ministry.

The exact punishments were not disclosed Monday, and it was not clear whether the lack of criminal charges would trigger any protests in Afghanistan. Administrative punishments could include demotions, extra duty, forfeiture of pay, or a letter in their file. They could also stall any future advancement and end their military careers.

Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said Karzai’s office would review the decisions and wait until Tuesday to respond. The news on the punishments came late at night in Afghanistan.

The Navy said the sailor was found not guilty of any alleged misconduct and that no further disciplinary or administrative action was warranted.

The Qurans and other Islamic books were taken from the Parwan Detention Facility, and officials believed that extremists being detained there were using the texts to exchange messages. The religious books and other materials were put in burn bags and then later thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a major U.S. base north of Kabul.

A report on the investigation into the February Quran burning is expected to be released Monday. But officials have previously detailed the incident, describing it as not intentional, but as a mistake compounded by some bad decisions.

U.S. officials have said that the holy books were pulled out by Afghan workers before they were destroyed. President Barack Obama apologized to Karzai for the incident.

Afghan officials, however, have claimed the burning was intentional, and it reinforced perceptions in the country that Americans are insensitive to the Afghans’ religion and culture.

The urination video, which came to light in January and appeared on YouTube, showed four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three dead men. On Monday, the Marine Corps revealed that there were also photographs taken at the time.

Discovery of the video led to a criminal investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as well as a Marine investigation of the unit involved — the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines — which fought in the southern Afghan province of Helmand for seven months before returning to its home base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., last September.

In the video, one of the Marines looked down at the bodies and quipped, “Have a good day, buddy.”

The Marine Corps, in a release Monday, said one Marine pleaded guilty to urinating on the Taliban soldiers and posing for a photograph. Another Marine pleaded guilty to wrongfully videotaping the incident and also posing for a photograph, and a third pleaded guilty to failing to report the mistreatment of human casualties and lying about it.

Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt contributed to this report from Kabul, Afghanistan.


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