The US military is expected to announce disciplinary action on Monday in response to two incidents that provoked outrage in Afghanistan early this year, one over a video depicting Marines urinating on corpses and another involving burning copies of the Quran, US officials said.
The Army was expected to announce that six soldiers would receive administrative punishments over an incident in which copies of the Quran and other religious material were removed from a prison library and sent to an incinerator to be destroyed, a US official said on condition of anonymity.
The incident in February touched off several days of rioting and attacks on US troops after local workers found charred copies of the Koran among the trash at the incinerator at the Bagram base north of Kabul.
US President Barack Obama sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologizing for the incident. US officials at the time said some of the religious material had been removed from the prison library at Bagram because of concern that it was extremist in nature and was being used to pass messages among prisoners.
At least 30 people died in the violence that spread across the country after the incident. Shortly after, two American officers were shot dead in a secure area of the Afghan interior ministry, a crime that remains unsolved.
An investigation into the Koran burning concluded in June with recommendations that the troops involved receive administrative punishment, a US official said at the time. An administrative punishment might include a written reprimand or docked pay, but not criminal charges.
Afghan officials and clerics have warned that a punishment perceived as too light would inflame public opinion and could have dangerous consequences. Afghans initially demanded a public trial for the soldiers.
The Quran burning came a month after Marines were shown in a video urinating on the bodies of what appeared to be dead Taliban fighters.
Disciplinary action in that case also was expected to be announced on Monday against three Marines who pleaded guilty, another official said.
The video, which was posted on YouTube and other websites, shows four men in camouflage Marine combat uniforms urinating on three corpses. One of the Marines can be heard saying, "Have a nice day, buddy," while another makes a lewd joke.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior military officers condemned actions depicted in the video. Panetta told Karzai in a phone call that the video was "deplorable" and the top U.S. military officer, Army General Martin Dempsey, said the actions depicted were illegal.
The incidents have complicated NATO efforts to win the trust of the people as they attempt to train Afghan forces to take control of security for the country ahead of a 2014 withdrawal of most foreign combat troops.
© Thomson Reuters 2012