The Los Angeles Times released a set of photos on Wednesday that appear to show U.S. troops in Afghanistan posing with the remains of suicide bombers. An American soldier released the photos to the LA Times "on the condition of anonymity."
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen 'strongly condemned' the photos. In a statement, ISAF clarified that the incident took place in 2010 and "represents a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values."
According to NBC News, the Pentagon press secretary said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta 'strongly rejects the conduct' of the soldiers depicted in the photos. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman declined to comment.
The anonymous soldier who released the photos to the LA Times reportedly told the paper that he released the photos to highlight security shortcomings at U.S. bases in Afghanistan. "He said the photos point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops," the LA Times reported.
The released images are the latest in a series of scandals involving U.S. forces that have put pressure on the United States' already-strained relations with Afghanistan.
In January, a video of U.S. Marines urinating on dead bodies of Taliban members sparked outrage. The burning of Qurans at a NATO airbase in February spurred week-long riots that killed dozens. In March, a U.S. army sergeant allegedly massacred 17 civilians in Afghanistan.
In one of the pictures a paratrooper posed next to an unofficial patch placed beside a body that read "Zombie Hunter", while in another soldiers posed with Afghan police holding the severed legs of an insurgent bombers.
Two soldiers in another frame held a dead insurgent's hand with the middle finger raised.
The LA Times said the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had been at a police station in Afghanistan's Zabol province in February 2010, and revisited several months later. The pictures were taken on both occasions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement released by departmental spokesman George Little that publication of the pictures could prompt further attacks against security forces ahead.
"The danger is that this material could be used by the enemy to incite violence against U.S. and Afghan service members in Afghanistan," Panetta said. "U.S. forces in the country are taking security measures to guard against it."
The U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan Ryan Crocker also condemned the photographs, calling the actions of the soldiers "morally repugnant" and saying they "dishonor the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers and civilians who have served with distinction in Afghanistan".
The Times defended the distribution of the photos, which U.S. military officials asked the Times not to publish.
"After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan," Times Editor Davan Maharaj said in the newspaper's article.
The photos are likely to stir up more anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan as NATO combat troops look to exit the country in 2014 and strengthen fragile security in the country.
Such incidents have complicated U.S. efforts to negotiate a strategic partnership agreement to define its presence once most foreign combat troops pull out by the end of 2014.
BEFORE YOU GO
05/07/2012 12:34 PM EDT
Police Take Position
Police take their position alongside a giant picture of Afghan national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, on the roof of police headquarters in Kabul on May 7, 2012. The United States has freed up to 20 detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan over the past two years in an effort to promote reconciliation with insurgent groups, the US embassy said. (BAY ISMOYO/AFP/GettyImages)
05/07/2012 11:32 AM EDT
A Mining Future On Hold
@ AbasDaiyar :
Dreams Of A Mining Future On Hold In #Afghanistan : NPR http://t.co/uN1C2TP3?
05/07/2012 10:48 AM EDT
An Afghan youth looks out from an intricately carved truck window at a police checkpoint in Kabul on May 7, 2012. Afghan forces are ready to take responsibility for security in 2013, the defence ministry said on May 7, reacting to a pledge to withdraw French troops early by president-elect Francois Hollande. Hollande made a campaign promise to pull French soldiers out of Afghanistan this year, ending his country's combat role two years earlier than NATO's carefully crafted plan to hand security control to Afghans by 2014. (SHAH MARAI/AFP/GettyImages)
05/07/2012 10:08 AM EDT
@ ISAFmedia :
AP reports: Afghan Govt forces will thwart any attacks mounted by Taliban. http://t.co/qDEtWRsI #ANSFCanDo
05/06/2012 6:14 PM EDT
What French Election Means For Afghanistan
@ headlinenews :
Fox: What French presidential vote means for European debt crisis, Afghan war, global diplomacy: French voters c... http://t.co/E6fcgbiH
05/06/2012 5:21 PM EDT
Afghanistan At NATO Summit
@ AfghanNews24 :
Afghanistan a major focus of NATO summit - Chicago Sun-Times http://t.co/a7lk2KGT
05/06/2012 5:20 PM EDT
Inside A Plane
U.S. servicemen inside of a plane before their departure to Afghanistan from the U.S. transit center Manas, 30 km outside the Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, on March 27, 2012. A planned withdrawal of US and coalition forces by the end of 2014 hinges on building up Afghan army and police, but the surge in 'fratricidal' attacks threatens to undermine that strategy, with strained relations between NATO troops and Afghan forces marked by distrust and cultural clashes. (VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/GettyImages)
05/03/2012 3:51 PM EDT
An Afghan boy walks with his cow at sunset in Mazar-i Sharif, capital of the Balkh province on April 9, 2012. Agriculture has traditionally driven the Central Asian nation's economy, with wheat and cereal production being mainstays and quality fruits, especially pomegranates, apricots, grapes, melons, and mullberries being exported to many countries. (QAIS USYAN/AFP/GettyImages)
05/03/2012 2:25 PM EDT
The Next Decade Of War
@ JoeNBC :
Looking Ahead to the Afghan War's Next Decade - Global - The Atlantic Wire: http://t.co/CWSrDjih