I spent two and a half years in Afghanistan, based out of Kandahar, serving as a civilian-military advisor to the Afghanistan National Army 205th Corps. Our mission was to train and assist in developing functional operating systems for the 205th Corps at their Corps (division) down to Kandak (battalion) level. Our focus areas were personnel, intelligence and security, operations, senior enlisted, battle command and control, and logistics/property accountability — and needless to say there were cultural obstacles we had to overcome.
One of the biggest obstacles was to break down the old Soviet style of battle command where all orders and directions came from higher levels and there was little acceptance of lower level initiative. As well, there was no such thing as a professional senior enlisted cadre — that had to be built. However, there were some very serious issues with which we had to contend.
I recall when we had to push for the reprimand of an Afghan commander who was ordering young enlisted men to engage in sex acts with him. There was also incessant watching of pornography on the unit computers while the Afghans were on duty. In any of these types of cases, we would bring it to the attention of the Senior Coalition Force Commander who would explain why this type of behavior was not acceptable to the Afghan Army Commander. I was in Afghanistan from mid 2005 to late 2007. It appears something has truly changed.
You may recall the story of U.S. Army Special Forces Sergeant First Class Charles Martland, who is in the fight for his military career because of an action he and his ODA Team commander, Captain Dan Quinn took. But there is a huge twist.
As reported by the New York Times, “In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.
“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”
Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records. The policy has endured as American forces have recruited and organized Afghan militias to help hold territory against the Taliban.
But soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages — and doing little when they began abusing children. “The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights,” said Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. “But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.”
The policy of instructing soldiers to ignore child sexual abuse by their Afghan allies is coming under new scrutiny, particularly as it emerges that service members like Captain Quinn have faced discipline, even career ruin, for disobeying it. After the beating, the Army relieved Captain Quinn of his command and pulled him from Afghanistan. He has since left the military.”
The motto of the U.S. Army Special Forces is “De Oppresso Libre” — to liberate the oppressed. How is it that a policy decision has been made at the Department of Defense to turn a blind eye to the most abhorrent of behavior? Read More….