Military chiefs consider disciplinary action for Quran burnings in Afghanistan

A recently completed Pentagon inquiry into the accidental burnings of Qurans in Afghanistan could result in disciplinary action against U.S. troops.

Gen. James Mattis, head of Central Command, has reviewed the Defense Department's findings on the incident and issued his recommendations for action to the heads of the services, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby. 

Kirby declined to comment Wednesday on which service chiefs received Mattis's recommendations or what specific disciplinary actions were being considered.

"Each service is going to handle this differently," he said. "That is a process that [the services] own." 

Up to half dozen American troops and officers face official reprimand for the Quran burnings at the U.S. airbase in Kandahar. The incident touched off a weeklong wave of violent protests in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan. 

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The public uproar over the burnings, ending with the death of six U.S. soldiers and more than 30 Afghan civilians, prompted Afghan president Hamid Karzai to demand all American troops leave the country ahead of the White House's 2014 withdrawal deadline. 

President Obama personally apologized to Karzai for the burnings shortly after the incident, drawing sharp rebukes from congressional Republicans who questioned the need for it.

A joint U.S.-Afghan investigation into the burnings that wrapped up shortly after the incident highlighted a number of missteps and errors made by U.S. officials, according to news reports at the time. 

The same U.S. official who participated in that joint review also conducted the DOD-led inquiry into the Quran incident, according to Kirby. 

American officials at the Parwan detention facility at Kandahar Air Base rounded up copies of the Quran and other books from the prisoners housed there, fearing they may be using the books to pass messages to one another, according to findings in the joint review. 

Ultimately, the decision was made to burn all the confiscated books, including the copies of the Quran that were rounded up by U.S. officials, rather than place the contraband materials in storage. 

Afghan soldiers who were helping American forces dispose of the books attempted to extinguish the fire once they realized copies of the Quran were being burned, according to one account of the incident reported by The New York Times

One Afghan solider reportedly jumped into the fire pit and tried to salvage the burning holy books by hand before U.S. troops realized what was happening and stopped the disposal, according to the Times