There is real concern that the images could incite more violence in Afghanistan. The military had asked the Los Angeles Times not to print the photos, but the newspaper said it stands by its decision to post them in its Wednesday issue.
According to the newspaper, the pictures were taken in 2010 by members of the 82nd Airborne Division. They show soldiers posing with dead men believed to be suicide bombers.
Los Angeles Times Editor Davan Maharaj was quoted in the article saying, "After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan."
The L.A. Times says they got the pictures from a member of the Army unit. The soldier told the Times he wanted the pictures to expose a breakdown of discipline in the unit that could compromise safety.
Top U.S. military and civilian officials rushed to condemn the soldiers' actions, calling them repugnant and a dishonor to others who have served in the conflict. The Army said an investigation is under way.
At a news conference after a meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers in Brussels, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apologized for the images. He told reporters he "strongly condemns" the behavior exhibited in the photos, and said that in war, young people "can make foolish decisions."
The photos come on the heels of last month's mass killing in Afghanistan linked to a U.S. sergeant. In February, violence broke out in Afghanistan after U.S. forces disposed of Korans by burning them. And in January, U.S. Marines were found to have made a video of them urinating on Afghan corpses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.