US troops were instructed to ignore child sexual abuse in Afghanistan as “Cultural Differences”

Interviews with soldiers suggest that military officials didn’t care much about ending child sexual abuse

The sordid pedophilic Afghan practice, known as “bacha bazi,” or “boy play,” involves boy dancers who are subject to sexual assault and abuse by their male patrons.

A damning November audit by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense shows that although troops were not explicitly discouraged from reporting the cases, the issue was never brought up until the media reported that troops were encouraged to ignore the practice.

The issue entered the public spotlight in 2015 when Sgt. First Class Charles Martland, a decorated Green Beret, was ordered to be forcibly discharged from the military for beating up an American-backed Afghan commander for raping a boy in 2011. The military warlord abducted the child and kept him chained to a bed as his sex slave.

Martland had participated in the beating along with a Special Forces captain, Dan Quinn. He told Army officials that he “felt that morally we could no longer stand by” and allow Afghan authorities “to commit atrocities.”

Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr., who was shot to death in 2012 at a U.S. base along with other soldiers, was another soldier who raised the “bacha bazi” issue with his superiors, and was told to look the other way. His father believes that Buckley was killed because of his objection to the practice. A teenage “tea boy”—domestic servants often pressed into sex slavery by Afghan warlords—serving under the local warlord, pulled the trigger.

According to the Pentagon report into the issue, US. Forces-Afghanistan only identified 16 allegations involving Afghan officials between 2010 and 2016—and did little to stop the practice. Although soldiers were instructed to report human rights violations since 2011, child sex abuse was not declared a violation until September 2016.

Interviews with soldiers suggest that military officials didn’t care much about ending child sexual abuse.

“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, or that it was best to ignore the situation and to let the local police handle it,” the report stated.

One interviewee who filed a complaint against an Afghan commander for raping children was told: “It was out of our control” and “There’s nothing we can do about it.” He was also informed that “It’s their country.”

The Daily Caller reports that a presentation given to sailors stated that pedophilia was rife in Afghanistan, but added that readers should “control and overcome any frustration caused by cultural differences that they may experience during their deployments.”

Likewise, cultural training provided to the Marine Corps informed marines that they “need to understand the culture, accept it without making judgments, and figure out how to work with it or around it to accomplish your mission.” It stated that Afghan men joke about pedophilia—a practice that Marines should ignore. Marines were not given explicit instruction on what to do if they encountered instances of child rape.

“We determined that the DoD did not conduct training for personnel on identifying, responding to, or reporting instances of child sexual abuse involving ANDSF personnel before 2015,” the report stated.