May 24th, 2010
09:54 AM ET

Sources: U.S. soldiers focus of criminal investigation

WASHINGTON — At least 10 U.S. Army soldiers from an already-troubled unit of the 2nd Infantry Division in southern Afghanistan are now the focus of a criminal investigation into allegations they deliberately killed three Afghan civilians, used illegal drugs and conducted other illicit activities, several military sources told CNN.

The soldiers are part of the 5th Stryker Brigade of the 2ID, based out of Fort Lewis, Washington, said the sources, who declined to be identified because the military has not named those under investigation.

The military issued a brief statement last week saying a criminal probe was under way into the allegations of killing, illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy. One military official familiar with the details of the case told CNN the matter was brought to the attention of commanders by at least one other soldier. The killings of the three civilians did not take place in one single incident, the official said.

Those under investigation are members of the same company, the official said. All 10 remain in Afghanistan. One soldier is being held in detention known as "pre-trial confinement." The others have been "put in a position where they can do no harm," the official said. He would offer no other details.

Charges are expected to be filed in the coming days.

The U.S. military is bracing for public outcry in Afghanistan when details emerge, several officials said. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has made protection of Afghan civilians a top priority, the officials stressed this case appears to be one of deliberate murder, not civilian casualties as a result of combat.

The Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, known as the "5-2," has been the subject of controversy for months inside Army circles. The unit has suffered some of the highest casualty rates of the war. Several senior U.S. Army officials have told CNN there has been a growing belief inside Army circles the brigade was not embracing McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy and was too heavily focused instead on combat operations.

In one of the most comprehensive analyses of the 5-2's troubled tour in southern Afghanistan, the Army Times reported in January that the brigade commander Col. Harry Tunnell replaced one of his company commanders whose group had suffered high casualties.

But the Army Times, a privately-published newspaper, quoted several soldiers who said that company commander was very popular with the troops, and that the unit's deep-set troubles and casualties resulted from a lack of training for the type of counter-insurgency warfare now being called for.

"What we're doing is not working, and we need to go on a different tack," the Army Times quoted one soldier as saying.

A senior U.S. Army official directly familiar with Stryker operations said the command of the 5-2 has been a concern to the Army for months.

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Cyrus Howell


    July 13, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. daqueen

    I happen to know the one individual who is being held in "pre-trial confinement". He is a good man with severe battle fatigue. His drug test came back clean. The rest of the soldiers in the group decided to plead guilty to avoid the risk of severe dicipline after being told that if they'd plead guilty, they'd get a lesser sentence. The "one" chose to ask for a lawyer. He then spent 4 days with no blanket... no lawyer... no phone call... nothing but solitary confinement with a dirty mattress on the floor. I don't know if he's guilty of the other things they are saying.... not that any charges have been filed as of yet.

    Please don't judge him until all the facts come out. The assault has to do with one guy ratting on those who were doing drugs and then they beat the crap out of him.

    Please support our soldiers. They are supporting us.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kris

    Come home safely, 5/2. You are almost home

    May 27, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Amber

    Thanks to the 5/2 Stryker Brigade for their courage in fighting the war in Afghanistan against terrorism. I mourn with them for the heavy losses they've taken. A note to the commander-in-chief: Quit forcing our soldiers to fight with one hand tied behind their backs. Stop leveling the playing field. This is war.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Land of the Free

    Jack Murtha, God rest his crooked soul, tried and convicted the Haditha Marines in the court of public opinion. All have been freed and cleared of charges save one whose case has not been heard. It completely ruined their lives during the interim. Let's not do that to these young men. Thanks to all of those fighting the war on terrorism who keep us free. May God bless our troops, and may this quickly come to an end in their favor.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. FreedomFighter

    God bless our young warriors. They are asked to fight an enemy that wears no unitorm and plays by no rules of engagement. Meanwhile, our troops all too often can't even get the backup they need to stay alive when they are being overrun by the enemy. Of course, CNN always chooses to believe the very worst about our troops. Hey, obama, either get in it to win it, or get the hell out.

    God bless our troops!

    May 27, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. maureen molina

    My take on this mess is "what happens in Afghanistan stays in Afghanistan". If they did do what they are accused of then they should be tried in the Afghan courts. We bring Middle Eastern prisoners to this country and try them in our courts regardless of what country their crime was committed in. Turn about is fair play when the solution becomes the problem.

    May 27, 2010 at 3:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. Malofeo

    There are bad apples in every walk of life, it's just unfortunate when they show up during time of war. No, Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman enjoys having their reputation tarnished by said individuals. Military service can be hard enough without being looked upon in an unfavorable light. To all my brother's and sister's in uniform who are continuing to fight the good fight, I salute you and pray you come home safely.

    May 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bill 4

    Why is this surprising. Did we not learn anything from Vietnam. Some of our military personnel are not immune from the lure of drug profits, weapons theft, and yes assassinations solely for profit. Our Commander in Chief has the solution,
    repeal don't ask don't tell.

    May 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hans Berken

    JenniPoohBear...You sound simple

    May 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stormvet13

    Billy, BITE ME... from ALL OF U.S.!!!

    May 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |