In yet another example of a series of severe breaches of discipline by U.S. troops, which has dangerously undermined the U.S. position with the Afghan people, a U.S. soldier, on condition of anonymity, has released 18 photos to the Los Angeles Times.
The soldier served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C. He feels the photos show a breakdown in discipline and leadership and that this compromises the safety of U.S. troops.
He hopes that publication of these photos will ensure that security shortcomings at 2 U.S. bases in Afghanistan in 2010 will not be repeated. His brigade is now apparently under new command, although some of the same paratroopers who served at the time of the photos did begin another tour in Afghanistan in February of this year.
Because of the shocking nature of the photos, the L.A. Times
was asked not to publish the photos by the U.S. Department of Defence, but the newpaper said that it was responsible to report objectively on the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and decided to move forward and publish a selection of the photos.
The Editor at the L.A. Times, Davan Maharaj stated, "After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops."
The article in the L.A. Times
gives a step by step description of the scenes depicted in the photos.
After the L.A. Times showed the U.S. Army officials copies of the photos, a criminal investigation has now been launched.
An Army Spokesman
, George Wright said: "It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes. Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas."
He stated that once the investigation is complete, the U.S. Army will "take appropriate action" against those involved.
An army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Margaret Kageleiry has stated that most of the soldiers in the photos have now been identified.
During a yearlong deployment of the 3,500-member brigade, 35 men were lost according to icasualities,org, a website that tracks casualties. Around 23 soldiers were killed by homemade bombs or suicide bombers. It was during this period that the photos were taken.
During that time there were suicide attacks on 2 bases of the brigade's 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. In these attacks 6 U.S. soldiers and 4 Afghan interpreters were killed.
The soldiers who posed for the offending photos were part of that battalion.
In separate interviews, the solder who gave the photos to the L.A. Times and 2 other former battalion members said that they and others had complained about the inadequate security at the 2 bases. During an Army investigation into a suicide attack in July 2010 in Kandahar, where 4 U.S. soldiers were killed, it was found that senior battalion members had also complained about security at the base. However, the investigation decided that security measures were "reasonable and prudent" with the limited resources available.
These photos have come to light at a particularly sensitive moment for Afghan-U.S. relations. In January 2012, a video was posted on the internet of 4 U.S. marines urinating on Afghan corpses. This was followed in February by the accidental burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base, which caused riots leaving 30 dead and the death of 6 Americans.
In March Digital Journal
reported on the shooting of 16 villagers in 2 separate Afghan villages allegedly by a U.S. Army Sergeant, which was later raised to 17 dead. Afghan villagers
still insist that there were more than 1 soldier involved in the shootings as they heard multiple gunfire.
In the video, from RT
former Afghan MP Daoud Sultanzoy, conjects that as well as posing a threat to relations between the U.S. and his country, this further scandal will only contribute towards NATO leaving behind a grim legacy in Afghanistan.
A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby has said that the conduct depicted in the photos "most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan.... Nevertheless, this imagery — more than two years old — now has the potential to indict them all in the minds of local Afghans, inciting violence and perhaps causing needless casualties."
He added, "We have taken the necessary precautions to protect our troops in the event of any backlash."