The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, spoke out today about a video that purportedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of suspected Taliban fighters, calling the incident "inhuman."
"The Government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans," Karzai said in a statement, referring to the Marines. "This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the U.S. government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime."
The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) said it is investigating the video, which surfaced online Wednesday morning. At less than a minute long, it appears to show four men in uniform looking around before urinating on three dead bodies, at least one of the men chuckles as they do so.
"Have a great day, buddy," one of the men is heard saying, apparently to a dead body.
In a statement, the USMC said the video had yet to be verified, but if true, portrayed actions "not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps."
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called Karzai Thursday morning to "express his view that the conduct depicted in the footage is utterly deplorable," Pentagon spokesperson George Little said.
The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan similarly condemned the video, saying, "This behavior dishonors the sacrifices and core values of every service member representing the fifty nations of the coalition." The ISAF also announced a criminal investigation into the incident is now underway.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a D.C.-based human rights group, said "the apparent desecration of the dead" was "totally unbecoming of American military personnel and that could ultimately endanger other soldiers and civilians."
"We trust that this disturbing incident will be promptly investigated in a transparent manner and that appropriate actions will be taken based on the results of that investigation," CAIR said in a statement.
The video surfaced after the U.S. government announced it was holding tacit peace talks with the Taliban that could possibly include a prisoner exchange, but a Taliban spokesperson reportedly said the footage will not have an impact.
"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 said, according to a Reuters report.
On Twitter, a user who identifies himself as another spokesperson for the Taliban linked to a report about the video and simply asked the ISAF, "You guys love the spotlight, don't you?"
On one of the first websites to feature the video, the member who posted it identified the Marines as belonging to the 3/2 Marine battalion out of Camp Lejeune, an assertion later confirmed by the USMC. The battalion served in the northern Helmand Province in Afghanistan last summer.
The 3/2 Marine battalion last made headlines in November when movie star Mila Kunis attended the 3/2 Marine Corps Ball at Camp Lejeune after being asked on a date by a Marine via online video.