US troops taught sexual abuse was 'culturally accepted practice' in Afghanistan
“In some cases, the interviewees explained that they, or someone whom they knew, were told that nothing could be done about child sexual abuse because of Afghanistan’s status as a sovereign nation, that it was not a priority for the command,” the report says.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” one soldier interviewed for the report said his superior officers told him when he complained. Other comments included “it was out of our control,” and “this is Afghanistan.”
Titled ‘The Implementation of the DoD Leahy Law Regarding Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse by Members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,’ the 106-page report was issued in response to a complaint by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-California) about child sexual abuse, particularly against young boys, by Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel.
“We determined that the DoD [Department of Defense] did not conduct training for personnel on identifying, responding to, or reporting instances of child sexual abuse involving ANDSF personnel before 2015,” the Pentagon report said.
The military began to investigate pedophilia only after a 2015 New York Times article said US troops were told to ignore sex abuse of boys.
“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” Lance Corporal Gregory Buckley reportedly told his father before being killed in 2012, according to the Times.
In 2011, two special forces members were punished for confronting a local commander who abducted an Afghan boy and forced him to become a sex slave. Captain Dan Quinn approached an Afghan police commander about the behavior. After the commander laughed in his face, Quinn “picked him up and threw him on the ground” in order “to make sure the message was understood that if he went back to the boy, that it was not going to be tolerated.”
Following the incident, the military relieved Quinn of his command and he later resigned. Sergeant First Class Charles Martland was also punished for the same incident. Rep. Hunter intervened on his behalf with the Pentagon, and the decision to expel Martland was overturned in April 2016.
The war in Afghanistan is now in its 16th year and has surpassed the Vietnam War as America’s longest-ever conflict. Civilian deaths hit record highs in July 2017, matching the levels seen in 2012. The US troop presence in Afghanistan peaked at 100,000 in 2011 under the Obama administration.
Prior to his 2016 presidential election, Trump was a harsh critic of the Afghan war, saying the US "should leave Afghanistan immediately” and calling the war "a complete waste.”
In August 2017, however, Trump announced US troops would remain in Afghanistan for an indefinite period of time.
“Conditions on the ground – not arbitrary timetables – will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out,” he said.