Spokesmen for the Marines and Army point out that officers and enlisted personnel could face punishments up to and including courts martial depending on the results of the various probes into the incidents.
The investigations into the Marine video have been completed, and a senior Marine general in Quantico is currently weighing if any troops should be disciplined, and how harshly. Col. Sean Gibson, a spokesman for the Marines, said there was no timetable for a final determination.
The two services’ refusal to more quickly take action contrasts sharply with the Navy, which has relieved dozens of senior officers of command over the past 16 months for far smaller offenses. Last summer, for example, Navy Capt. Eric Merrill was relieved of command after his ship hit a buoy in the waters off Bahrain. At least 28 Navy officers have lost their posts since January 2011, many while the investigations into their behavior were still under way.
The U.S.-led military command in Kabul has also fired some officers for comparatively minor missteps. Last fall, Army Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller was removed from his post after he criticized Afghan President Hamid Karzai and told Politico that the Karzai administration was “isolated from reality.”
Fuller lost his post almost immediately, with Gen. John Allen, the top Afghan war commander, slamming him on the way out the door for making “inappropriate public comments.”
Navy Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. command in Kabul, said the investigation into the pictures published on Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times was just getting under way and that “it would be premature to get ahead of that process.” The probes into the Kandahar shootings and Koran burnings are also ongoing, military officials said, though the Koran probe should be completed soon.
Speaking via e-mail, Kirby also emphasized said that such gaffes have been carried by only a tiny fraction of the U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan. Those troops, Kirby said via e-mail, are notable for “the respect they show daily for Islam and for the Afghan people, the courage under the fire they take almost every day, and the humility with which they do it.”
Still, Kirby declined to answer questions about why no soldiers or Marines had yet been disciplined for the Kandahar shootings, Taliban urination videos, or Koran burnings, referring those queries to the individual military services.
Spokesmen for the Army and Marines said no discplinary measures would be taken until the internal probes had been completed. The Navy, for its part, routinely removes officers from command while such investigations are ongoing; in March, Cmdr. Jon Haydel was relieved for “personal misconduct” even though the probe into his behavior hadn’t been completed.
Army spokesman George Wright referred a question about the status of troops involved in the Koran burning back to NATO, which had specifically refused to talk about it. Wright confirmed that no one besides Bales has to date faced any disciplinary proceedings in connection to the Kandahar shootings. In the Pentagon, many officers believe that Bales’s commanders bear some responsibility for failing to put measures in place which would have prevented him from leaving the base and carrying out his rampage.