The official said they are likely to be charged with a violation of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice soon, ABC News reported. Experts say their apparent action violates the Geneva Convention, which calls for enemy bodies to be "honorably interred" and the code's ban on "bringing discredit on the armed forces."
In the one-minute video, apparently made in Afghanistan, one of the soldiers says "Have a great day, buddy." The video was posted online and came to public attention Wednesday.
Senior U.S. military officials in Kabul and at the Pentagon have confirmed the video's authenticity. They identified the Marines as part of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines. The unit completed a tour in Afghanistan before returning Camp Lejeune, N.C., last fall.
Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, issued a directive Friday on the NATO Web site reminding soldiers of their duty to "act honorably at all times," CNN reported.
"We must treat the living and the dead with dignity and respect," Scaparrotti said.
The video could weaken U.S. efforts to maintain relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and negotiate with the Taliban, The New York Times reported Friday.
Pentagon officials said the video was made between March and September 2011 when the battalion was stationed in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold.
The Taliban and Karzai both said the images are evidence of U.S. brutality.
In Washington, U.S. officials condemned the video and tried to repair any damage to U.S.-Afghan relations. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Karzai to assure him a thorough investigation would be conducted.
Taliban leaders initially indicated Thursday the video wouldn't undercut talks, but later said in an official statement, "We strongly condemn the inhuman act of wild American soldiers, as ever, and consider this act in contradiction with all human and ethical norms."
Karzai said he was disturbed by the images and asked that the Marines be punished severely, the Times reported.
"This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms," he said.
Hajji Ahmad Fareed, a former member of Parliament, told the Times the images are confirmation to him that America was anti-Islam.
The Americans "will never be friends with us and never bring peace," he said.