Taliban negotiators approaching discussions on a peace deal with the United States claim that the talks will not be derailed by the emergence of a new video showing Marines urinating on dead Taliban soldiers.
The video, released near the 10th anniversary of the opening of the terrorist prison at Guantanamo, was released anonymously on YouTube. The poster claims that US Marines with the elite combat unit Scout Sniper Team 4 engaged in this practice. International law may have been violated:
According to the Geneva Conventions, which the US military observes, combatants must “at all times, and particularly after an engagement…search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.” They are also required to “ensure that the dead are honourably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged, that their graves are respected, grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased, properly maintained and marked so that they may always be found.” (The UK’s rules for its military members are even more explicit, threatening court-martial for any soldier for “maltreatment” of a dead enemy.)
The Pentagon is currently investigating. But the biggest fallout from the video may be to nip in the bud a new round of peace talks with the Taliban, which await a go-ahead from Afghan President Hamid Karzai (not a certainty; Karzai refused to go along with an earlier deal in December). So far, Taliban officials have said that this will not derail the talks:
An Internet video showing what appear to be U.S. forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters will not affect efforts to broker peace talks, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban said Thursday.
The video, posted on YouTube and other websites, shows four men in camouflage Marine combat uniforms urinating on three corpses. One of them jokes: “Have a nice day, buddy.” Another makes a lewd joke.
“This is not a political process, so the video will not harm our talks and prisoner exchange because they are at the preliminary stage,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.
Karzai did condemn the actions this morning, calling them “insane” and “demanding the investigation and punishment for the solders from the U.S. government regarding this film as soon as possible.” So the claim that this will not become a barrier may be premature. For their part, the Pentagon believes the incident to be legitimate, and plans to investigate.
Meanwhile, the intelligence community concluded that progress has stalled in Afghanistan, a common assessment for them, contradicted by constant claims of progress from military sources.
The U.S. intelligence community says in a secret new assessment that the war in Afghanistan is mired in stalemate, and warns that security gains from an increase in American troops have been undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighboring Pakistan, according to U.S. officials.
The sobering judgments, laid out in a classified National Intelligence Estimate completed last month and delivered to the White House, appeared at odds with recent optimistic statements by Pentagon officials and have deepened divisions between U.S. intelligence agencies and American military commanders about progress in the decade-old war.
This is the real problem in Afghanistan, regardless of the state of talks. We’re just spinning our wheels there. As well as committing apparent atrocities.