Troops tried to burn 500 Qurans, U.S. says
The incident came despite repeated warnings from Afghan soldiers that the U.S. troops were making a colossal mistake.
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — U.S. troops tried to burn about 500 copies of the Quran as part of a badly bungled security sweep at an Afghan prison in February, despite repeated warnings from Afghan soldiers that they were making a colossal mistake, according to a U.S. military investigative report released Monday.
The number of copies of the Muslim holy book that were taken to the incinerator at Bagram Air Base was far greater than U.S. military officials earlier acknowledged in their accounts of an act of desecration that triggered riots across Afghanistan. The incident is also thought to have played at least a partial role in an ensuing increase in attacks against NATO troops by Afghan soldiers and police.
Despite demands from Afghan officials that the American troops be placed on trial over the Quran burnings, U.S. military officials decided against filing criminal charges. Instead, the Army announced it had taken less-serious disciplinary action against six soldiers for what they described as unintentional — if costly — mistakes.
The investigation found that before their deployment to Afghanistan, the troops were exposed only to about an hourlong PowerPoint presentation about Islam. The Army did not release the names of the six soldiers because they received only unspecified administrative punishments and did not face criminal charges. A Navy sailor also was investigated, but officials said disciplinary measures were dropped in that case.
Meanwhile, in another case of offensive behavior in the war zone, the Marine Corps said Monday that it disciplined — but stopped short of filing criminal charges against — three noncommissioned officers for their involvement in an incident last year in which Marines videotaped themselves urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.
After a lengthy investigation, the Marine Corps said it determined that the video was recorded in July 2011 by members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment while they were deployed to the village of Sandala in Helmand province.
Three Marines pleaded guilty Monday to violations of military regulations but were spared more serious charges that could have resulted in a court-martial.
Disciplinary measures are pending against other Marines involved in the case.
The Army's investigation of the burning of the Qurans documented a series of blunders by U.S. troops and military police officers who — unable to speak local languages — mistakenly assumed that they were disposing of radical literature found in the library of the Parwan detention center, at the edge of Bagram Air Base.
Acting on suspicions that prisoners were passing illicit notes in the margins of library books, U.S. troops asked an Afghan translator to take a look. The translator concluded, erroneously, that the majority of the library's holdings were extremist in nature, according to the investigative report.
When Afghan soldiers and guards at the prison learned of the plan to burn the books, they objected loudly. But U.S. troops, responding to miscommunicated orders as well as suspicions about their Afghan allies, transported the materials to a burn pit at the base.
Although most of the texts were rescued at the last minute by Afghan workers at the base, the military said "up to 100" Qurans and other religious texts were burned.
2 U.S. troops
shot to death
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — An "insider" shooting killed two more U.S. troops Monday, while a concerted bout of violence in southern Afghanistan left 27 people dead in two separate incidents, including 17 partygoers who were slaughtered by suspected Taliban at a gathering where music and dancing were taking place, officials said.
The deaths of the two Americans in Laghman province were the result of an argument between Afghan and U.S. soldiers, according to Sarhadi Zewak, a provincial spokesman.
The 17 people killed Sunday night in a private home in Helmand's Musa Qala district — two of them women, the rest men, according to Afghan officials — had been listening to music and dancing, said Neymatullah Khan, the district chief.
According to some Afghan reports, the victims were beheaded, but provincial authorities described the area as being under Taliban control, making it difficult to confirm details.
Circumstances were also murky about an attack late Sunday or early Monday on a checkpoint in Helmand's Washir district that left 10 Afghan soldiers dead, four wounded and the whereabouts of five unknown.
Los Angeles Times