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article imageU.S. personnel could face disciplinary action over Koran burning

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 3, 2012 in World
Kabul - At least five U.S. military personnel could face disciplinary action over their involvement in the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book The Koran, at the U.S. Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
The Guardian reports that a joint investigation by senior Afghan and U.S. military officials found that though there was no deliberate intention to desecrate the Islamic holy book, mistakes were made. Officials say there could be a disciplinary review of at least five U.S. military personnel.
The New York Times reports the American and Afghan officials who investigated the Koran burning say a chain of mishaps, poor judgment and ignored procedures led to the incident. The investigations involved interviews of more than a dozen Americans and Afghans. According to The New York Times, an American official close to the joint Afghan-American investigation said the final report would call for disciplinary review of at least five people involved in the Koran burning, including American military leaders and an American interpreter, who according to officials, is an Afghan-American.
The Guardian reports that the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, appointed a separate panel to investigate the incident. The panel came to a very different conclusion. It concluded that the burning of the Koran and related literature was deliberate.
Maulvi Khaliq Dad, a senior Afghan religious leader, member of the Ulema Council, who was on the panel, said U.S. troops told Afghans at the base that the religious materials were being sent for storage, but instead, they were sent for incineration. According to Dad: "They are claiming that it was not intentional. Our investigative team says it was intentional."
After the panel the Afghan authorities set up had presented its findings, top religious leaders in Afghanistan on Friday, demanded that U.S. personnel involved in the incident be put on public trial.
The New York Times points out that the different findings by the two separate panels highlight the cultural differences between Afghans and Americans, especially their concepts of justice. American officials are insisting that the incident, though unfortunate, was not deliberate and therefore apologies should be sufficient. The New York Times quotes an American official insisting: “There was no maliciousness, there was no deliberateness, there was not an intentional disrespect of Islam."
But Afghan religious leaders are insisting that those involved should be publicly identified and punished. According to Dad: “There are some crimes that cannot be forgiven, but that need to be punished. This is not any book; this is the book of the whole Muslim nation, and if a few people are punished, America will not be destroyed. But if that doesn’t happen, it will create animosity and enmity between America and the Muslim world.”
According to The Guardian, the office of the Afghan president acknowledged it has seen the report the country's religious leaders presented but said they were still awaiting the joint report and therefore could not yet make comments on the panel's findings.
A presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi, said: "We are waiting for the result of the investigation by NATO, which will probably show who is involved in this and how many people are involved. After studying it we will announce our stance. What the Afghan president has requested from US officials and the US military is a trial and punishment."
What happened, according to Afghan and American investigators
Boston Globe gives a synopsis of the chain of events that led to the burning of the copies of the Koran:
Officers at the Parwan detention center became worried that detainees were secretly communicating a plot to attack through notes.
According to Maulavi Dad and members of the Ulema Council team who visited the detention center as part of their investigation, two Afghan-American interpreters were asked to sift through the library books and set aside those that had writing on them that could be considered "security risk."
A large number of books with writings on them classified as "security risk" were identified and separated. The authorities at the detention center responded to queries why the books were not simply stored away, saying they did not have storage capacity for such "sensitive material." According to an official: “You have separated a huge number of books - it will come out 1,652...and those that are in charge say, ‘We don’t have the storage capacity; this is sensitive material.'"
On February 20, soldiers were detailed to take the books to trucks that would transport them to incinerators. Afghan workers who noticed the books were religious books reported to their commanding officer.
According to an American official, by the time the Afghan officer contacted his U.S. counterpart the vehicle was already on its way to the incinerator.
Afghan and U.S. investigators agree that the three U.S. soldiers who accompanied the truck to the incinerator and burned the books had no understanding of the significance of the books they were incinerating. According to a military official: “For those three soldiers, this was nothing more than a work detail."
Digital Journal reported that President Barack obama and U.S. military officials in Afghanistan apologized for the burning of the Koran, but the apologies were not sufficient to appease popular anger which triggered violent protests that lasted six days and led to the death of more than 30 Afghans and six U.S soldiers.
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