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Pentagon Launches Probe into Child Sex Abuse in Afghanistan

By: Daniel Duarte - @dduart3 - Feb 23, 2016, 12:45 pm
Soldiers are facing expulsion from the US Army for defending abused children in Afghanistan. (Wikimedia)
Soldiers are facing expulsion from the US Army for opposing policy of ignoring child abuse in Afghanistan by ally Afghan officers. (Wikimedia)

The Pentagon is launching a full investigation into whether US troops deployed in Afghanistan looked the other way while allied Afghan officers sexually abused young boys.

Following a preliminary probe in October, the Department of Defense announced on February 19 that collected evidence warrants a deeper investigation into the matter.

The Military Times reports:

A number of American troops who deployed to Afghanistan have said they saw signs of widespread sexual abuse and believed there was a policy, even if unofficial, encouraging them to ignore the crime rather than create tension between Americans and their Afghans partners.

The sexual abuse of boys is widespread in Afghanistan, often referred to as “Bacha Bazi” — literally, “boy play.” Several troops have said they were punished or disciplined for intervening or taking action against Afghans whom they believed were sexually assaulting children, in some cases on joint military installations.

Bacha bazi is nothing new; it dates back hundreds of years in Central Asia as a way for warlords to show their status. Human-rights NGOs, documentaries, and reporters constantly denounce it in the international media.

The Taliban in Afghanistan forbade the practice since it is considered contrary to Sharia law, but the US Army turned a blind eye to the revival of their Afghan ally’s cultural practice.

The issue came to the spotlight in the United States in September 2015, when the New York Times ran an eye-opening piece:

The policy has endured as American forces have recruited and organized Afghan militias to help hold territory against the Taliban. But soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages — and doing little when they began abusing children.

“The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights,” said Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. “But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.”

The DoD probe comes at a time when the Army is considering whether to expel a soldier for beating an alleged child rapist in Afghanistan. According to Fox News:

Sgt. First Class Charles Martland, a Green Beret with an 11-year Special Forces career, was stationed in Afghanistan in 2011 when the boy’s mother came to him and said she’d been beaten and her son raped by a local police commander. Martland and another soldier summoned the police official and, when the man laughed at them, threw him off the base. Martland and Daniel Quinn were both disciplined for their actions.

Last year, amid military cuts, the Army Human Resources Command recommended Martland be discharged in part based on his disciplinary record, but an official decision by U.S. Army brass is expected by March 1.

Daniel Duarte Daniel Duarte

Daniel Duarte is an editor and translator with the PanAm Post. Based in Paraguay, he is currently finishing a bachelor's degree in philosophy, after moving back from France. Follow @dduart3.