No criminal charges for US service members involved in Quran burnings

American service members will not face criminal charges for their role in the Quran burnings in Afghanistan earlier this year, but will be subjected to lesser administrative actions for their involvement in the incident.

One sailor and six soldiers will likely receive a written reprimand and a loss of pay for their participation in the burnings, but will retain their ranks and not be forced to go before an official military court martial, according to recent news reports.


The disciplinary decisions were based on the recommendations of a Pentagon investigation into the incident, which concluded in May.

Gen. James Mattis, head of Central Command, reviewed the investigation's findings on the incident and issued his recommendations for action to the heads of the services, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said at the time. 

The decision to not proceed with criminal charges in lieu of lighter punishment for the seven service members tied to the incident ultimately fell to those top uniformed leaders.

A Defense Department official confirmed to The Hill that Central Command has completed its review and forwarded its input to the various service chiefs.

No final decisions will be made by service leaders on the fate of the the service members facing disciplinary action until each service has completed their individual reviews of the command's recommendations, the official said.

Up to eleven soldiers were withdrawn from Afghanistan after the Quran burnings at the American air base in Kandahar, which touched off a week-long wave of violent protests throughout the country. 

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. 

Wednesday's decision could further strain relations between Washington and Kabul just as 32,000 American troops are set to rotate out of Afghanistan this summer. 

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. 

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 could 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. 

Since the incident, Afghan security forces have been handed control of the Parwan facility, as part of the U.S.-Afghan plan to begin transitioning all security operations to local forces in preparation of the U.S. withdrawal in 2014. 

—Story was updated at 2:00pm to include comments from a Defense Department official.