The U.S. military has reportedly been engaging in a policy of ordering its troops not to intervene when U.S.-allied and trained Afghan security forces sexually abuse children. Soldiers who have attempted to intervene in the abuses, some of which have taken place on U.S. bases, have been punished by superiors for disobeying orders.
The New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein wrote, “Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally ‘boy play,’ and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.”
The Army stripped Special Forces Captain Dan Quinn, who has since quit the military, of his command after a 2011 incident in which he allegedly assaulted an Afghan police commander who had admitted to keeping a local boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.
“I picked him up and threw him onto the ground. I did this to make sure the message was understood that if he went back to the boy, that it was not going to be tolerated,” said Quinn. He added, “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, 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.”
Army Special Forces Sgt. First Class Charles Martland is also reportedly facing disciplinary action for assisting Quinn in the alleged beating.
“The Army contends that Martland and others should have looked the other way (a contention that I believe is nonsense),” said U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA).
Col. Brian Tribus, spokesman for the U.S. command in Afghanistan, told The New York Times, “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law. There would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.”
Gregory Buckley Sr., whose son Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. was killed by a 17-year-old boy staying on base with an Afghan police commander, believes his son’s death was a consequence of the U.S. military’s policy of ignoring sexual abuses by allies. He said that, during his last phone call home before he was killed, his son told him, “At night we can hear [the boys] screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it.”
“My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture,” said Gregory Buckley Sr.
An ex-marine speaking under conditions of anonymity explained the military’s view on the policy to The New York Times. “The bigger picture was fighting the Taliban. It wasn’t to stop molestation,” he said.