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'Deplorable': U.S. defense chief condemns urinating Marines video

NBC's Jim Miklaszewski on the ramifications of the video that allegedly shows marines urinating on corpses.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET:

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has condemned a video that apparently shows U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghan men, promising to punish those involved.

"I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable," Panetta says in a statement, adding that he had ordered the Marine Corps and the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan to investigate the incident.

"Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent," he says.

The video that surfaced a day earlier appeared to show American forces urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters could aggravate anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan as the Obama administration hopes to end a decade-long war.


Updated at 6:58 a.m. ET:

President Hamid Karzai's government "strongly condemned" the video and called the actions by American soldiers "insulting" and "insane."

"The Islamic republic of Afghanistan is demanding the investigation and punishment for the solders from the U.S. government regarding this film as soon as possible," the presidential palace says in a statement released Thursday.

Updated at 6:31 a.m. ET:

The NATO-led International Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan comes close to acknowledging that it thinks the video is real and promises a criminal investigation.

"ISAF strongly condemns the actions depicted in the video, which appear to have been conducted by a small group of U.S. individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan," the coaltion says in a statement on Thursday. "This behavior dishonors the sacrifices and core values of every service member representing the fifty nations of the coalition."  

"Therefore, a United States Criminal Investigatory agency has launched an investigation. It will be thorough and any individuals with confirmed involvement will be held fully accountable,” ISAF's statement adds.

An investigation has been launched after video emerged that military authorities say appears to show U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

Published at 5:15 a.m. ET:

 

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.
 
The footage, which the U.S. military said appeared to be authentic but had not been officially verified, could complicate efforts to promote reconciliation as foreign troops gradually withdraw.
 
The Obama administration, seeing a glimmer of hope in its effort to broker talks, is launching a fresh round of shuttle diplomacy with an immediate goal of sealing agreement for Taliban insurgents to open a political office in the Gulf state of Qatar.
 
Marc Grossman, Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, begins a diplomatic blitz this weekend that includes talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and top officials in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  
'Very, very bad impact'
The video will not help his efforts to build confidence among the warring parties.
 
"Such action will leave a very, very bad impact on peace efforts," said Arsala Rahmani, the top negotiator from Karzai's High Peace Council.
 
"Looking at such action, the Taliban can easily recruit young people and tell them that their country has been attacked by Christians and Jews and they must defend it," he said in the first comments from a high-ranking Afghan.

The New York Times reported that Grossman's efforts have been going on for the past year and involved a small team of American officials who secretly met multiple times with a shadowy representative of Afghanistan’s Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in the hope of starting peace talks.
 
It reported the administration’s best chance for ending the war in Afghanistan had reached "a critical juncture."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the newspaper on Wednesday there appeared to be support, for the first time, for a political resolution that included Taliban leaders who ruthlessly ruled the country from 1996 until the American invasion after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
 
“The reality is we never have the luxury of negotiating for peace with our friends,” it quoted Mrs. Clinton as saying. “If you’re sitting across the table discussing a peaceful resolution to a conflict, you are sitting across from people who you by definition don’t agree with and who you may previously have been across a battlefield from.”
 
The U.S. Marine Corps has said it would investigate the Internet video of abuse.
  
Marines to be 'held accountable'
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan described the acts depicted in the video as "highly reprehensible" and "disgusting".
 
"The behavior depicted in this video is reprehensible and is not in keeping with the values of U.S. Armed Forces," ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings said.
 
A U.S. official said "it should be pretty easy" to identify the Marines in the video and those involved "will be held accountable for their actions." 
The Marines, though not identified by name, were confirmed to be a sniper team out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., U.S. military officials told NBC News. They were deployed to southern Afghanistan from early 2011 until August of 2011.
 
In a formal statment, a Marine Corps official said: "The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps."
 
At first, the Marines could not determine whether the incident took place in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it was later determned to be Afghanistan.
 
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group in the United States, condemned the alleged desecration of corpses in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and obtained by Reuters.
 
"Any guilty parties must be punished to the full extent allowed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and by relevant American laws," the letter said.
  
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Reuters, NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.