An Army investigation has concluded that the abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq was the result of individual acts of indiscipline, not of any systemic problem or flawed policy.
Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, the Army's inspector general, told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that while his review of 94 confirmed cases of abuse found some "shortcomings and flaws," particularly in Army training of military police, overall there was no sign of a "pattern" of abuse that would suggest "any systemic failure."
Nor, he testified, did he find any major failure of Army doctrine concerning detention and interrogation.
Mikolashek's report, ordered up after reports of detainee abuse surfaced last spring from Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, was scheduled to be released later this afternoon.
The Army's long-awaited conclusions supported statements by President Bush and top military officials, who have said the acts of mistreatment of prisoners were aberrations rather than the product of any policy, implicit or explicit, or of a culture in the Army.
But the conclusions were at odds with a report presented to the military last spring by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which suggested that there was indeed a pattern in the abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners, who were made to strip naked, perform humiliating sexual acts and were threatened by dogs on leashes, among other things. Abu Ghraib, the inspector general said, was "the most egregious" of the abuses studied.
But Mikolashek's review, he said, was much broader. Mikolashek said his findings were based on interviews with 630 members of the Army at all levels at bases in the U.S. and at detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said his investigators also looked at written reports of ongoing criminal cases stemming from abuse, but did not interview those involved in those cases.
Since October 2001, he said, the Army had detained a total of 50,000 people in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As of June, he testified, there had been 125 cases of alleged abuse -- defined as "wrongful death, assault, sexual assault or theft" -- of which 94 had been confirmed. That number was higher by three than figures previously reported.
Of those 94, he said, 45 occurred at the "point of capture," 19 at detainee "collection points" throughout battlefield areas and 21 at detention facilities, including Abu Ghraib. The location of another nine cases had not been determined, he said.
Of the total confirmed cases, Mikolashek said, about half involved "some element of physical abuse," while others involved theft or other infractions.
All the cases, Mikolashek said, were the result of "actions by a soldier or soldiers who failed to maintain self-discipline or failed to follow procedure," or of failures of officers to maintain proper oversight.
Generally, Mikolashek said, "our soldiers and leaders do understand the requirement" to treat detainees humanely, "and they do." They are also aware that they are to report abuses, he said, "and they do."
Where abuse occurred, he testified, "it was the result of an individual failure of discipline or compounded by the actions or failure of actions of a leader at the tactical level to enforce those standards of discipline, provide the right kind of oversight and supervision."
Contrary to some outside critiques of the abuse and to the claims of defense lawyers for the soldiers charged in the seven courts martial produced by the Abu Ghraib investigation , Mikolashek said he found no "direct relationship" between techniques of interrogation and abuse.
But, he said, "the cases we looked at were outside the confines of interrogation."