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Karzai, Taliban Condemn Desecration; Military Questions Pair of Marines

JULIAN E. BARNES, MARIA ABI-HABIB The Washington Post 01/13/2012 19:25
Karzai, Taliban Condemn Desecration; Military Questions Pair of Marines - Afganistan - security - Asia

Pentagon officials went to lengths Thursday to avert damage to the U.S. war effort from a video that shows a group of Marines urinating on militants' corpses.

Even before the military confirmed the video's authenticity, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to say he found the images deplorable.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House also expressed remorse. "Anyone found to have participated or known about it, having engaged in this kind of conduct, must be held fully accountable," she said.

Mr. Karzai strongly condemned the video as "inhuman." A statement from his office called for an immediate investigation and "severe punishment" for the U.S. troops featured in the video.

The Americans' full-court press appeared aimed at conveying to the Afghan and U.S. public that the incident was an aberration. Western officials in Kabul described Mr. Karzai's reaction as levelheaded and not inflammatory, a break from his use of similar past incidents to stoke anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said they were also heartened by a Taliban statement that the incident wouldn't derail attempts to begin peace talks.

The video, which emerged on YouTube and other sites, runs less than a minute. It depicts four men in Marine Corps combat gear urinating on three corpses. "Have a great day, buddy," one of the Marines is heard saying.

The Defense Department launched multiple investigations to identify the Marines in the video and the person who took it.

Military officials said the Marines in the video were from the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, a unit that is highly trained but not in the same elite class as Navy SEALs or Marines Special Operations forces.