Defense Department Investigating Reports of Child Abuse in Afghanistan
U.S. Special Ops soldier who beat an Afghan police official for allegedly abusing a young boy is at the center of the scandal.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General is launching an investigation into how U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have handled accusations of child rape by Afghan military commanders. The decision will place the office in the center of the controversy surrounding the U.S. Army’s planned expulsion of a decorated Green Beret for beating an Afghan police commander accused of systematically raping a young boy.
Sgt. First Class Charles Martland, along with then-Capt. Daniel Quinn, admitted to beating an Afghan Local Police (ALP) commander in Kunduz in 2011 after their superiors refused to act on their reports of child rape and imprisonment. Martland’s planned expulsion from the Army, and his leadership’s response to his allegation, called into question the U.S. policy for dealing with the issue of child rape in Afghanistan.
In a notice posted Tuesday, the inspector general’s office said it would investigate “how many cases of child sexual abuse alleged against Afghan government officials have been reported to U.S./Coalition Forces Commands,” and “what actions were taken and by whom?”
Quinn has since left the Army and Martland was slated to be kicked out on Nov. 1 until Army Secretary John McHugh – who is set to retire by Nov. 1 – stepped in and agreed to postpone the discharge until the soldier could file an appeal. McHugh’s change of heart came after he spoke with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tx.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked for a stay in discharging Martland. “Out of respect for Chairman Thornberry’s continued strong support for our military, and his personal appeal,” McHugh said, Martland’s team would have 60 additional days to appeal his discharge.
Martland has retained the services of an Army lawyer at Fort Bragg, N.C., and is in the process of filing his appeal.
Though under a gag order, the Army did allow Martland to write a public letter explaining his side of the story. “Our ALP (Afghan Local Police) were committing atrocities and we were quickly losing the support of the local populace,” Martland wrote. “The severity of the rapes and the lack of action by the Afghan Government caused many of the locals to view our ALP as worse than the Taliban.”
The case brought out a number of soldiers who charged that they had been told to keep quiet about the child abuse they had witnessed in Afghanistan, a policy – even if unwritten – that was vehemently denied by U.S. commanders.
The practice of Afghan warlords and military commanders forcing young boys into sexual slavery — known as bacha bazi, or “boy play” — has hardly been a secret. But this episode represented the first time that American military officials had been accused of covering it up, or ignoring it.
In an announcement posted Tuesday, the inspector general announced it would look into what guidance or policies the U.S. military has issued to deployed troops on how to handle accusations of child rape and abuse in Afghanistan, and how many cases of abuse had been reported up through the chain of command over the 14 years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
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