WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) does not believe the Pentagon’s claim that U.S. troops in Afghanistan are not being told to ignore the sexual abuse of children by Afghan security forces, according to the lawmaker’s office.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has been complaining for weeks that a decorated Green Beret is being forced out of the Army because he confronted an Afghan police commander he believed was repeatedly raping a child in 2011.
“There isn’t an explicit, top level policy that requires soldiers to look the other way, but the fact that there have been such extraordinary implications for a group of service members that attempted to stop sex abuse says it all,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The Daily Beast today.
On Tuesday, Rep. Buchanan wrote a letter addressed to the chairmen of the armed services committees in both the House and the Senate, urging them to investigate the alleged child rape policy.
Despite the Pentagon denying the existence of such a policy, Chafin Claude, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee, told Breitbart News that Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), has “demanded a briefing” on the issue from the Department of Defense (DOD) by Friday.
“The committee will continue its review of the troubling allegations reported in the press,” Dustin Walker, a spokesman at the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Breitbart News in response to Buchanan’s letter.
When asked if Rep. Buchanan believes claims by the Pentagon and Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of U.S.-led troops of Afghanistan, that there is no policy in place that directs American troops to ignore child rape by Afghan security forces, Joe Sangiorgio, a spokesman for Buchanan, said there is “doublespeak taking place at the Pentagon right now.”
“The Congressman doesn’t buy it for a second and believes the soldiers are telling the truth when they say they were told to ignore the sexual assaults taking place on an American military base,” continued Sangiorgio. “Instead of trying to cover up what happened, the Pentagon should be issuing commendations to the American soldiers who displayed courage and honor in defending innocent children.”
Sexual abuse of children, particularly boys by men in power, is rampant in Afghanistan. The common practice is known as “bacha bazi” or “boy play.”
The Pentagon and Gen. Campbell appear to be backtracking comments made by Col. Brian Tribus, spokesman for the U.S. Command in Afghanistan, to 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,” Col. Tribus, who has been described as director of public affairs for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, told The Times, adding that “there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.”
Other American service members told The Times that they have indeed been told to turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of boys by military officials and police officers that make up the Afghan security forces.
On Monday, Rep. Buchanan wrote a letter to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urging him “to immediately reverse the Pentagon’s shameful policy” of telling U.S. troops to ignore the sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan.
Gen. Dempsey had not responded by the time this report was submitted for publication.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon denied the existence of a policy that orders U.S. troops to ignore child rape.
For over a month now, Rep. Hunter has been writing letters to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, urging him to intervene on behalf of Sgt. First Class Charles Martland, a decorated Green Beret who Hunter believes is being involuntarily separated from the Army for confronting an Afghan child rapist. Secretary Carter has not responded to those letters.
“The Army’s decision to reject the appeal of Sgt. Martland is a disgrace and needs to be overturned by General Dempsey or the commander in chief, President Obama,” Sangiorgio told Breitbart News.
In statement issued Tuesday, Gen. Campbell also said there is no policy to ignore the suspicion of boys being raped by Afghan allies. The general said he was confident the policy never existed.
Gen. Campbell said he expects “any suspicions of sexual abuse will be immediately reported to the chain of command, regardless of who the alleged perpetrators or victims are.”
In its annual human rights reports, the State Department has repeatedly acknowledged that sexual abuse of children remains rampant in Afghanistan.
“There were some reports security officials and persons connected to the ANP (Afghan National Police) raped children with impunity,” said the department in its 2014 report on Afghanistan.