By Barbara Starr
The U.S. Southern Command expects to finish questioning early this week 12 military members suspected of potential misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia during President Barack Obama's recent visit there, a Defense Department official said Monday.
The investigating officer conducting those interviews will then forward his report, along with recommendations, to military lawyers for review, and then to Gen. Douglas Fraser, commanding general of the U.S. Southern Command.
The defense official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing.
The investigation should wrap up within a few days, the official said, earlier than was previously indicated.
Fraser is expected in the coming days to brief Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the recommendations for potential punishment made by the investigating officer, the official said.
Additionally, the military is expected to brief Senate Armed Services Committee members, who have expressed irritation with not having been kept informed about the investigation.
Once the Southern Command investigation is done, Gen. Fraser will issue formal "guidance" to U.S. military commanders in Central and South America regarding behavior standards for troops deployed there.
The Southern Command inspector general is conducting a parallel review to determine if all necessary behavior standards are in place, and whether troops are trained and informed about them.