Maj. Jason Brezler is being kicked out of the military after more than 15 years of service for warning fellow Marines in 2012 that a Taliban-linked Afghan police commander working at their post in southern Afghanistan was corrupt and sexually abusing boys, the Washington Post recently reported.
“The warning was never heeded,” noted the New York Times (NYT) in September.
About two weeks after Maj. Brezler sent the warning via e-mail, one of the older boys who was being abused by the Afghan police chief, Sarwar Jan, grabbed a rifle and killed three Marines.
In 2010, Maj. Brezler and another Marine persuaded Afghan authorities to arrest Jan for corruption, providing support to the Taliban, and child abduction, the Times reported.
However, two years later, Jan was back with a different unit, working at the U.S. Forward Operating Base (FOB) Delhi in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Maj. Brezler learned of the police commander’s new position and sent out an email to Marine officers at FOB Delhi, warning them about Jan and attaching a dossier about him.
On Aug. 10, 2012, one of the abused boys, a 17-year-old, killed three Marines: Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, 21; Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, 29; and Cpl. Richard Rivera Jr., 20.
Although he sustained five gunshot wounds, a fourth Marine survived.
Maj. Brezler, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who is currently serving in the Marine Corps Reserve while working full-time for the New York Fire Department, is the only American service member who was punished in the investigation that followed the deadly incident, his lawyers told the Times.
“In one of Major Brezler’s hearings, Marine Corps lawyers warned that information about the police commander’s penchant for abusing boys might be classified,” NYT revealed in September, noting that the Marine Corps had begun proceedings to remove Brezler.
On Nov. 30, a senior Navy Department official decided to uphold Maj. Brezler’s dishonorable discharge for his handling of “classified information,” reported the Post.
Michael Bowe, Brezler’s lawyer, told the Post that the major will be discharged from the Marine Corps following a decision by acting Assistant Navy Secretary Scott Lutterloh.
“The case grabbed attention in Congress and among highly decorated senior officers in the military, some of whom advocated on Brezler’s behalf to let him stay in the Marines,” noted the Post. “Other service officials maintained that retired Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps’ top officer when the investigation began, and other generals involved handled the case well.”
“We will now proceed to a real court and prove that Commandant Amos and his generals illegally retaliated against Major Brezler because they were more concerned with politics and their careers than the lives of their Marines and the service of a good Marine who did the right thing,” Bowe reportedly said in an e-mailed statement.
Brezler joined the Marine Corps after graduating from the Naval Academy in 2000. Fox News reported that the honorable discharge meant Brezler can keep his military benefits.
The late Lance Cpl. Buckley’s father told the Times that, in his last phone call home, his son said U.S. troops in Afghanistan had been told to ignore child rape by their Afghan allies.
“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” Gregory Buckley Sr., Lance Cpl. Buckley’s father, recalled his son telling him before he was killed 2012.
“My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture,” added the Marine’s father.
The U.S. military has denied the existence of a policy ordering American troops in Afghanistan not to report the sexual abuse of children by their Afghan allies.
Nevertheless, Lance Cpl. Buckley’s father argues that the policy of turning a blind eye to the rape of children played a role in his son’s death, and he has filed a lawsuit to press the Marine Corps for more details about it.
“As far as the young boys are concerned, the Marines are allowing it to happen and so they’re guilty by association,” Mr. Buckley said. “They don’t know our Marines are sick to their stomachs.”
According to the Post, Ainuddin Khudairaham, the Afghan who killed the three Marines, was convicted last year.
“He was tried as a teen and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in confinement, infuriating the Buckley family, which expected a longer sentence,” the Post reported. “The shooter allegedly stole a Kalashnikov assault rifle and opened fire on the unarmed Marines until he ran out of ammunition.”
Khudairaham allegedly bragged about committing the deadly crime to Afghan police, saying, “I just did jihad.”
The Afghan commander has moved on to a higher-ranking position within the U.S.-backed Afghan police in Helmand province, noted the Times.
“In an interview, he denied keeping boys as sex slaves or having any relationship with the boy who killed the three Marines,” mentioned the article.
However, people who know him say he is still sexually abusing children.
The rampant sexual abuse of Afghan boys by men in power, known as Bacha Bazi (“boy play”), is a centuries-old custom in Afghanistan that has long been a problem.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and other Republicans in Congress have lobbied Defense Secretary Ash Carter to prevent the Marine Corps from forcing Brezler out of the service and to clear him from all wrongdoing.