Did the Pentagon tell U.S. troop serving in Afghanistan to ignore child abuse on young Afghan children? A startling report from the New York Times this week alleges just that. Afghan men – in many cases U.S. allies of Afghan military and police officers – openly abusing boys, and the U.S. military being told to stand down and do nothing about it.
Writes CNN on Sept. 23: “The two U.S. soldiers say they used physical force to drive home their message to the Afghan police commander who had been sexually abusing a boy.” Those men – U.S. Army captain Dan Quinn and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland – were thereafter relieved of their duties by their superior officers. The reason? They had ignored an alleged directive from Pentagon brass to overlook such despicable abuse in the name of stabilizing Afghanistan’s brittle local governments and law enforcement agencies.
“I picked him up, threw him to the ground multiple times and Charles did the same thing,” Quinn said, speaking of a man who was caught abusing a young Afghani boy. “We basically had to make sure that he fully understood that if he ever went near that boy or his mother again, there was going to be hell to pay.”
In Afghanistan, a contemptible subculture of “boy play” – dubbed bacha bazi – is allowed to flourish unchecked. Fathers physically abusing young boys – their own children – in public squares, or in some cases, grown men taking boys away to be used as sex slaves. Those abusing the children are Afghanistan’s own security forces – being armed by the American military and placed in positions of power over local villages.
“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” Gregory Buckley Sr. recalled his son telling him before he was killed serving in Afghanistan back in 2012. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”
“The reason we weren’t able to step in with these local rape cases was we didn’t want to undermine the authority of the local government,” Quinn, who has since left the military, said. “We were trying to build up the local government. Us acting after the local government fails to can certainly undermine their credibility.”
The pentagon firmly denies issuing any such order to the military.
“I can tell you we’ve never had a policy in place that directs any military member or any government personnel overseas to ignore human rights abuses,” said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. “The practices described in that article, we find absolutely abhorrent. There’s nothing that would preclude any military member from making reports about human rights violations to their chain of command.”
Said Army Gen. John Campbell: “I personally have served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and am absolutely confident that no such theater policy has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander,” Campbell commented, according to Military Times.
However, the military is under intense scrutiny to explain why it discharged Martland – an 11-year Green Beret who along with Quinn confronted the alleged rapist. Martland has since filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense.
Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have now demanded that the Pentagon turn over any internal memos or “water cooler” guidance passed down the ranks.
“Protecting child predators is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as a nation,” wrote Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., in a letter to Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “It is bad enough if the Pentagon is telling our soldiers to ignore this type of barbaric and savage behavior, but it’s even worse if we are punishing those who try to stop it.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., insisted that the Pentagon provide “any and all existing Department of Defense legal guidance regarding the reporting of child abuse.”