A YouTube video showing allegedly US marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters has sparked a furious row on popular social media.

The footage, which is less than one minute long, shows soldiers in US uniform urinating on three Taliban corpses. One of the men chuckles as they do so. Another says "Have a great day, buddy".

The video could aggravate anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan after a decade of a war that has seen other cases of abuse, notably the systemic abuse of prisoners in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in 2004.

The latest Marine video release comes at a sensitive moment, with Washington trying to promote Afghan reconciliation as US troops gradually withdraw from the country.

The Marine Corps responded quickly after reports of the video emerged, calling for a full investigation.

"Headquarters Marine Corps has recently been made aware of a video that portrays Marines urinating on what appear to be deceased members of the Taliban," the United States Marine Corps said.

"While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps."

"It's hideous. It turned my stomach," John Kirby, US Department of Defence spokesman said.

Social media sites were buzzing with outrage.

"The Urine of Democracy bit.ly/z5YoI5 A nation that does not respect the dead would not respect the living [Homo sapien] #marines #us" tweeted Mike Derderian, an American cartoonist and writer.

Another writer, Adam Rozenbachs, ironically wrote on Twitter. "Imagine you do PR for the US defence Department. Finish this: 'Yes, the marines urinated on dead Taliban soldiers, but...' #USA #marines"

"Haven't #USA got enough problems to solve at home, instead of spending money on warefare and making a shame of that country? #marines," said Sergio Andrés Muñoz, an activist from Colombia.