By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2012 – Defense Secretary Panetta strongly despises the conduct depicted in 2010 photos of soldiers posing with corpses of insurgent suicide bombers in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
“These images by no means represent the values or professionalism of the vast majority of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan today,” he added.
Little, who is in Brussels with Panetta for a conference of NATO defense and foreign ministers, said in a statement that an investigation is under way that could lead to disciplinary measures. “Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system,” he said.
According to the Los Angeles Times story that accompanied publication of the photos, a soldier who had served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team from Fort Bragg, N.C., anonymously provided 18 such photographs taken over several months because he believed they represented a breakdown in leadership and discipline that compromised troop safety.
Little said Panetta was disappointed that the newspaper published the photos despite a Pentagon request not to do so.
“The danger is that this material could be used by the enemy to incite violence against U.S. and Afghan service members in Afghanistan,” he explained. U.S. forces there are taking security measures to guard against that, he added.
In Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, issued a statement strongly condemning the actions depicted in the photos.
“The actions of the individuals photographed do not represent the policies of ISAF or the U.S. Army,” Allen said. “This behavior and these images are entirely inconsistent with the values of ISAF and all service members of the 50 ISAF countries serving in Afghanistan.”
Allen said ISAF continues to work with its Afghan and international partners to resolve any issues related to improper treatment of remains.
“This incident is being thoroughly investigated by U.S. national authorities,” he said, adding that ISAF has a strict policy for the handling of enemy remains and dictates they be processed as humanely as possible.
“The incident depicted in the LA Times’ photographs represents a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values,” the general said. Such actions, he added, “undermine the daily sacrifices of thousands of ISAF troops who continue to serve honorably in Afghanistan.”
Allen said ISAF will collaborate with Afghan authorities to examine the facts and circumstances shown in the photos.