A U.S. military investigative report released on Monday found that U.S. troops tried to burn 500 copies of the Quran despite warnings by Afghan officials.
The incident ocurred at Bagram Airbase on February 22nd 2011 at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, when troops burned copies of the Quran from the library of the airbase's detention facility.
The incident resulted in protests with violence resulting in 41 deaths and 270 injuries. The incident is also thought to be responsible for attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on NATO troops.
Among the 1652 books removed from the library were 48 copies of the Quran. The books were boxed for storage, but later send to an incinerator, according to the US military mistakenly, to be burned. Afghan garbage collectors found the charred books and informed an Afghan National Army commander.
The books were apparently removed from the library since the US military thought they were being used to pass information by the inmates.
Criminal charges were never filed against the six soldiers involved, despite demands that the soldiers be tried on Afghanistan. The military said that lesser disciplinary action was taken since the incident was unintentional. What that action was has not been disclosed.
The investigation showed a weakness in the training of US troops. There was a lack of awareness of Afghan culture and awareness. According to the report the troops only received about an hours worth of training in the form of a powerpoint presentation. Obviously that is not sufficient.
Prior to deploying to Bosnia this author spend time on a two week course, which included cultural awareness and religious training. This training, although not the end all, be all, is beneficial.
With more than ten years in country by the time these troops deployed there should have been a myriad information available to better prepare these troops. Some of the blame can be placed squarely with the US military.
During 2011 there were several events, including six Marines urinating on dead bodies, that contravened regulations. Those Marines only got a slap in the wrist as well.
Army Brigadier General Brian G. Watson said in the report that the found “malicious intent to disrespect the Qurann or defame the faith of Islam."
“Ultimately, this tragic incident resulted from a lack of cross-talk between leaders and commands, a lack of senior leader involvement and distrust among our US Service Members and our partners,” he said.
Distrust is still a major issue among US troops and the Afghan Security Forces. Recent killings at the hands of Afghan soldiers or police keep re-emphasizing that point.
Afghanistan is turning into a hell hole and not providing troops with cultural awareness training doesn't help.