WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Walter Jones has asked the Pentagon to open an investigation of a high-ranking Army official who is at the center of two probes involving possible wrongdoing by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Jones, of North Carolina, said he believes Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney has overstepped his authority in the investigations and in turn is hurting troops' morale.
"When men and women are asked to go to war for this country, then in my humble opinion they should be given every benefit of the doubt, and if there are any questions then they should not be handled in the press," Jones said in an interview with FOX News.
Two incidents in particular have caught Jones' attention. One involves a gunfight following a March 4 car bombing of a Marine convoy in Bandikot, Afghanistan, which ended with 19 Afghan civilians reported dead, and an Army colonel apologizing for the incident that he called "a stain on the forces' honor."
The colonel authorized payment of reparations to the victim's families before a military criminal investigation was complete.
Kearney, who at the time was major general in charge of Special Operations in Afghanistan, and has since been given a three-star general rank, ordered the unit pulled out of Afghanistan.
The Marines have since ordered their own investigation, which Kearney is not in charge of, although Kearney's involvement brought criticism for coloring the investigation before its completion. Kearney has said in the past that the hostile environment in Afghanistan meant the unit could no longer operate there and needed to be pulled out of theater immediately.
In a separate incident in October 2006, Kearney demanded reopening an inquiry into two Green Berets who killed an Afghan enemy combatant as Afghan police tried to take him into custody.
Afghan police in Ster Kheyl near the Pakistan border asked the Green Beret unit to help detain a known enemy combatant. The U.S. commander remained on a hill 100 yards from the combatant's home. The Afghan came out, identified himself and after a series of confused hand gestures from the Afghan police, the U.S. commander ordered his sniper to fire, killing the Afghan from 100 feet away, according to military reports.
The Green Berets were cleared of wrongdoing after two investigations. Kearney, however, demanded a third, in which the soldiers were cleared again.
Earlier this month, Jones sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates calling for the department's inspector general to look into Kearney's actions.
The father of one of the Marines accused in the March incident points to Kearney as the source of his son's problems.
"We believe there is quite a bit of evidence General Kearney committed lies against our men for his own purposes. I'm asking the American public to demand an investigation of what happened," said Jerry Olson, father of Christian Olson, the Marine executive officer in the unit removed from Afghanistan.
Christian Olson was not present during the shooting, but has been called before the Marine inquiry because of his status in the unit.
Jerry Olson said he believes overzealous scrutiny by Kearney is making the highly-trained Special Forces think twice about their military careers if they might be convicted of murder under increasingly strict rules of engagement.
Mark Waple, a lawyer representing the accused Marines, seconded the point.
"When they're dealing with enemy combatants and having to make the decision when and how to use lethal force, the concern is that that decision has to be made instantaneously, and it can't be debated, and you can't dial a lawyer or dial a JAG (judge advocate general) to determine if the trigger should be pulled," Waple said.
The military declined to allow Kearney to respond to questions in an interview. However, officials provided a statement he gave that said he was satisfied with his handling of the Green Beret incident, which is now complete. In the statement he refers to the investigation by its title in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
"The Article 32 investigation accomplished my intent. An experienced Special Forces officer provided an independent and thorough review of the facts in this case. The Article 32 investigation resolved the conflicting findings of the two previous investigations and the results demonstrate the effectiveness of the Military Justice system," Kearney said.
FOX News' Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel contributed to this report.