Pentagon denies telling “soldiers” to ignore Afghan child abuse

Updated: September 23, 2015
Pentagon denies telling soldiers to ignore Afghan child abuse

A shocking report alleged that the US military ordered American troops in Afghanistan to ignore instances of child abuse. The Pentagon now denies those claims, insisting it finds such practices “absolutely abhorrent.”

The New York Times reported on Sunday that US service members stationed in Afghanistan had been instructed by superiors not to intervene when they witnessed Afghan police officers and military commanders abusing minors, even when the abuse occurred on military bases.

Afghanistan’s government has tried to crack down on the practice of “bacha bazi” – literally, “boy play” – which has a long history in northern Afghanistan. Teenage boys dress up as girls and dance for male patrons, and some are turned into sex slaves by wealthy and powerful men, often former warlords.

Some US service members who had intervened when they witnessed or heard of abuse were punished for doing so, the New York Times reported.

“I can tell you we’ve never had a policy in place that directs any military member or any government personnel overseas to ignore human rights abuses,” said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. “The practices described in that article, we find absolutely abhorrent.”

“There’s nothing that would preclude any military member from making reports about human rights violations to their chain of command,” he added.

The US State Department, in its annual Human Trafficking report, published in July, pointed to the issue of bacha bazi, and said some Afghan law enforcement officials allow those who abuse minors to escape punishment in exchange for bribes.

“The government’s prosecution and victim protection efforts remained inadequate,” the report said.