Panetta Rejects Conduct Shown in 2010 Troop Photos

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2012 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta strong­ly rejects the con­duct depict­ed in 2010 pho­tos of sol­diers pos­ing with corpses of insur­gent sui­cide bombers in Afghanistan, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said today.

“These images by no means rep­re­sent the val­ues or pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the vast major­i­ty of U.S. troops serv­ing in Afghanistan today,” he added.

Lit­tle, who is in Brus­sels with Panet­ta for a con­fer­ence of NATO defense and for­eign min­is­ters, said in a state­ment that an inves­ti­ga­tion is under way that could lead to dis­ci­pli­nary mea­sures. “Any­one found respon­si­ble for this inhu­man con­duct will be held account­able in accor­dance with our mil­i­tary jus­tice sys­tem,” he said.

Accord­ing to the Los Ange­les Times sto­ry that accom­pa­nied pub­li­ca­tion of the pho­tos, a sol­dier who had served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team from Fort Bragg, N.C., anony­mous­ly pro­vid­ed 18 such pho­tographs tak­en over sev­er­al months because he believed they rep­re­sent­ed a break­down in lead­er­ship and dis­ci­pline that com­pro­mised troop safe­ty.

Lit­tle said Panet­ta was dis­ap­point­ed that the news­pa­per pub­lished the pho­tos despite a Pen­ta­gon request not to do so.

“The dan­ger is that this mate­r­i­al could be used by the ene­my to incite vio­lence against U.S. and Afghan ser­vice mem­bers in Afghanistan,” he explained. U.S. forces there are tak­ing secu­ri­ty mea­sures to guard against that, he added.

In Afghanistan’s cap­i­tal of Kab­ul, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, issued a state­ment strong­ly con­demn­ing the actions depict­ed in the pho­tos.

“The actions of the indi­vid­u­als pho­tographed do not rep­re­sent the poli­cies of ISAF or the U.S. Army,” Allen said. “This behav­ior and these images are entire­ly incon­sis­tent with the val­ues of ISAF and all ser­vice mem­bers of the 50 ISAF coun­tries serv­ing in Afghanistan.”

Allen said ISAF con­tin­ues to work with its Afghan and inter­na­tion­al part­ners to resolve any issues relat­ed to improp­er treat­ment of remains.

“This inci­dent is being thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gat­ed by U.S. nation­al author­i­ties,” he said, adding that ISAF has a strict pol­i­cy for the han­dling of ene­my remains and dic­tates they be processed as humane­ly as pos­si­ble.

“The inci­dent depict­ed in the LA Times’ pho­tographs rep­re­sents a seri­ous error in judg­ment by sev­er­al sol­diers who have act­ed out of igno­rance and unfa­mil­iar­i­ty with U.S. Army val­ues,” the gen­er­al said. Such actions, he added, “under­mine the dai­ly sac­ri­fices of thou­sands of ISAF troops who con­tin­ue to serve hon­or­ably in Afghanistan.”

Allen said ISAF will col­lab­o­rate with Afghan author­i­ties to exam­ine the facts and cir­cum­stances shown in the pho­tos.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)