US Military Ends Four Army Officers’ Careers for Accidentally Sending Korans to Burn Pits

Photo credit: Roel Wijnants

Army officials said that four Army officers and two enlisted soldiers received letters of reprimand for sending boxes of Korans from a prison library to a burn pit at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Although an Army investigation that was made public on Monday found that the soldiers did not act out of “malicious intent” to disrespect the Koran or defame Islam, investigators concluded that they did not follow proper procedures, were ignorant of the importance of the Koran to Afghans and got no clear guidance from their leaders in a chain of mistakes.

The Marine Corps said three non-commissioned officers involved in a video that shows four Marines urinating on the body of a dead Taliban fighter received “nonjudicial punishments,” which could include letters of reprimand, a reduction in rank, forfeit of some pay, physical restriction to a military base, extra duties or some combination of those measures.

The Marine Corps did not release the results of its investigation into the episode because, officials said, there were continuing inquiries about higher-ranking officers in the unit involved, which was part of the Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Military officials said the punishments were not as light as they might seem to the public — letters of reprimand effectively end most military careers — but it was unclear how they would be viewed in Afghanistan, where the Koran burning touched off days of riots across the country and compelled Mr. Karzai to call for a public trial.

American military officials said they were hopeful that Afghans would take the news calmly. “We have conveyed our condolences to the government and the Afghan people,” said Col. Thomas W. Collins, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan. “These were both terrible mistakes.”

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