By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2012 – While U.S. service members in Afghanistan made mistakes in handling Qurans in February, there was no intent “to disrespect the Quran or defame Islam,” the general investigating the incident wrote in his report.
U.S. Central Command released the results of the investigation into the incident, in which Qurans removed from a library for detainees were mishandled at Bagram Airfield.
Six soldiers will receive nonjudicial punishment for their parts in the incident, which sparked protests throughout Afghanistan.
The report, written by Army Brig. Gen. Bryan G. Watson, found plenty of blame to go around. Still, he stressed time and again in his report that none of the personnel involved acted maliciously.
The report details how U.S. service members at the detention facility in Parwan began by looking through books in the facility library to stop messages from being transmitted among detainees. This grew into a project to get rid of books that a translator deemed extremist, according to the report.
In his investigation, Watson found that up to 100 Qurans and other religious texts were burned at the Bagram Airfield incinerator. Watson wrote that although U.S. service members did mishandle Qurans and other religious texts, “I absolutely reject any suggestion that those involved acted with any malicious intent to disrespect the Quran or defame the faith of Islam.”
The general pointed to a lack of communication among leaders and commands. He also found that senior leaders at the facility did not give clear guidance, and that mid-level and junior leaders chose “the easy way instead of the right way to address a problem.”
A contributing factor was ignorance among Americans on how to handle Qurans and other religious tracts. The general also found poor adherence to established operating procedures.
Afghan soldiers at the facility tried to make the American soldiers understand the gravity of the situation, but they were rebuffed. “That U.S. service members did not heed the warnings of their [Afghan army] partners is, perhaps, my biggest concern,” the general wrote.
The U.S. Army took immediate corrective action and implemented many of the investigation’s recommendations, along with re-emphasizing proper handling of religious materials to all soldiers during pre-deployment training to minimize the potential for reoccurrence, Army spokesman George Wright said today. “Training soldiers in the proper handling of religious material is a continual process to ensure they uphold their responsibilities,” he said.