The recent outrage over reports of systematic child rape by Afghan security forces may be justified, but sadly there is little novelty to the reports themselves. Even the Sunday New York Times article that brought the matter into public view cited a list of earlier dispatches addressing it: articles in the Times itself in 2002 and 2011, as well as a 2010 Frontline documentary, “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan,” that explored at length the pedophilic practice of bacha bazi—the keeping of boys by Pashtun men for sex. A 2013 Vice documentary, This Is What Winning Looks Like, also examined the issue, with a focus on how U.S. Marines were struggling to stop such exploitation by Afghan police commanders in Helmand Province, largely without success.
What did seem new about the Times report was its claim that soldiers and Marines had been told to look the other way when confronted with the rape of children more or less in their midst. In one of two harrowing cases discussed by the reporter, a Marine, Lance Corporal Gregory Buckley Jr., told his father in a telephone conversation that he could hear the screams of the victims at night, two weeks before being shot to death in 2012 by one such victim in a so-called insider attack. The father is now suing the Marine Corps. In the second case, an Army Special Forces officer, Capt. Dan Quinn, was relieved of command after throwing to the ground a militia commander who had kept a local boy chained to his bed. Quinn has since left the Army, which is still pursuing disciplinary action against a second soldier involved in the incident, Sgt. First Class Charles Martland.
It is reasonable to question what on earth has happened to the moral compass of commanders who, upon hearing that one of their officers has used physical force against an Afghan commander who is raping young boys, chooses to discipline the officer—whose moral instincts, at least, seem beyond reproach. It is also reasonable to question whether or not these two cases prove the existence of an unspoken but consistent military policy of noninterference, as the Times article suggests.
The Pentagon responded by firmly rejecting that suggestion, and the commander of American troops in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, released a statement on September 22 in which he claimed, “I personally have served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and am absolutely confident that no such theater policy has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander.”
There was, indeed, no such policy in 2009 and 2010 when I served in Afghanistan as a Marine. We received no guidance or training—official or otherwise—dealing with the matter. We were aware of the fact that Pashtuns often had sex with younger men, but never encountered the kidnapping and rape of local boys that others have reported, probably because we were working primarily with the Afghan National Army—an organization dominated by northerners and non-Pashtuns and, by Afghan standards, a more professional outfit than the local police units that became critical to the success of the U.S. drawdown beginning in 2011. Though the Afghan Army has its problems, including corruption and surely sexual assault as well, lost in the discussion this week is a fine but important distinction: The crisis of systematic child rape primarily involves Pashtuns who have joined the police or government-backed militias in the eastern and southern parts of the country during the period when Americans have been focused on their own departure.
Faced with the prevalence of bacha bazi and an absence of guidance from above, adviser units working with the police and militias largely had to make up their own minds about what to do. Ben Anderson, the journalist who made the 2013 Vice documentary, told me in an interview that what Lance Corporal Buckley said to his father about hearing the screams of victims at night was something he himself had experienced on roughly two-thirds of the patrol bases he had stayed on while reporting on the Afghan security forces. The Marines he followed in Helmand for This Is What Winning Looks Like are filmed making repeated efforts to deal with the problem after receiving news that three boys kept as sex slaves have been shot by the police. They report what they are dealing with to their chain of command, where the grim news is suppressed by midlevel commanders working to put a positive spin on the progress of the drawdown.
Disputes between the political appointees who run the Pentagon and the military officers who serve there are not unheard of, but the nastiness and public nature of the fight over women in combat being waged between Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and the Marines who answer to him is unprecedented in recent memory.
“We have already cut defense … about 30 percent over the last 10 years, and we’re still at war. We’re actively involved on multiple continents in real combat operations. We should not be drastically reducing our troop levels.”
The following is an excerpt from a fact sheet prepared by Omri Ceren of the Israel Project that explains the significance of the Obama administration’s latest concession to Tehran—the reported collapse on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
A top commander in southwest Asia reminded U.S military personnel stationed in Muslim countries in the Middle East of the restrictions placed on them during Ramadan. According to a report by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs, Brig. Gen.
First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a surprise baby shower for expecting mothers at the U.S. Army Garrison in Vicenza, Italy. She brought along the "glam squad" from New York to join the festivities.
"This is your surprise baby shower," Obama said, according to a White House transcript of the event. "We know how much you guys do for us. And we know that it’s even more challenging for you guys who are expecting. And many of you -- all of you have your loved one deployed or about to be deployed, right?"
At a press conference in Germany, President Obama admitted that he does not have a "complete strategy" to defeat ISIS:
"When a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people," said Obama. "We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. So the details of that are not yet worked out.
Many Americans have a friend or family member who has served in the military. Now, American Corporate Partners (ACP), a non-profit that helps returning veterans transition into new post-service careers, is promoting a unique way to honor them. It’s called #GiveThem20. Give them 20 push-ups or sit-ups, that is, to thank them for their service. Then, once you’ve caught your breath, spread the word on social media and nominate two of your friends to do the same.
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina says the United States is "not making progress" in its fight against ISIS. In a recent interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Fiorina said President Obama "understates the significance of the situation" with the terrorist group that has taken over large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq.
"It's more than a tactical setback," she said of Ramadi, a critical town in Iraq's Anbar province that fell to ISIS forces last week. "It demonstrates that we're not making enough progress in degrading and defeating ISIS."
Oklahoma City Former Texas governor Rick Perry sounded off on the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to Islamic State forces at a conference Thursday, saying President Obama has “lost the peace” in a critical part of the country. He also said Hillary Clinton bears responsibility for the current violent state of Iraq under ISIS.