By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2012 – The investigation into allegations that U.S. service members improperly destroyed religious material in Afghanistan in February is now with the military services for disposition, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
The review was ordered following the Feb. 21 incident in which U.S. troops allegedly burned Qurans and other Islamic materials at the Parwan detention facility near Bagram, Afghanistan, inciting days of violent demonstrations.
Little told Pentagon reporters the investigation was conducted by the International Security Assistance Force and reviewed by Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the ISAF commander, before being forwarded to U.S. Central Command.
“The results from the investigation concerning allegations that U.S. service members improperly disposed of Islamic religious material at Parwan is complete,” he said. “[It] has been forwarded to the related services for disposition and any service-specific actions.”
“At this point, I’m not in a position to release any information about the report until each service has completed its review and any potential actions,” Little said. “We have made clear from the beginning that it’s our belief that while this was a truly unfortunate episode, it was inadvertent and in no way reflected any malice or disrespect toward the Islamic religion.”
The press secretary noted ISAF has worked diligently to “understand what happened and to ensure that incidents of this sort do not occur again.”
“General Allen instituted training to ensure that our troops understand how to identify religious text and how to properly treat them in theater,” Little said. “And that process has been ongoing since this incident.”
Little emphasized the investigative process must follow proper protocol and be completed before any possible action is taken against those involved. “It’s our expectation that they will take action relatively quickly,” he added. “Obviously, they need to follow proper procedures with respect to this kind of review.”
Little noted there is no specific timetable for the services to review and take action. “The decisions on disciplinary actions, if any are meted out, are the province of commanding officers,” he said.
Following a review of the Joint Force Staff College, ordered by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Little said there is not a larger issue of American troops targeting or showing disrespect toward Islam.
“I would be very hesitant to suggest that this, in any way, points to a broader trend inside the U.S. military,” he said. “The vast majority of our troops have profound respect for Islam. Millions of U.S. troops have been deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Little stated “the United States military is at war with our terrorist and insurgent enemies” and -- not with any particular religion.
“And that is something that the vast majority of U.S. troops understand,” he said. “They comport themselves in a way, a vast majority of the time, that shows that proper cultural respect and deference.”