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Fighting the Taliban at any cost by the US army led to a comeback of a horrific ancient practice not widespread even under Islamist rule. That has posed a real moral challenge to American soldiers. In combating powerful Taliban US forces require strong support from local residents who want to break free from the rule of extremists. But what if their lives become worse than a nightmare under the rule of US-backed police and militiamen, who stay just as unfettered as ever ?
How about turning backs to worst imaginable atrocities : child abuse ? No, it’s no atrocity, it’s a cultural practice, according to a US military policy, that tells soldiers to ignore what they see or hear if it’s done by army’s most valuable asset : local allies, whom they train, arm and support. This is what has become a common practice in Afghanistan since the beginning of international intervention in 2001 and is only now coming under real scrutiny, according to a recent article in The New York Times. “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 Times reveal.
One of the cases made public is the one of Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr., a US Marine killed in 2012 by an Afghan boy living on a military base with an Afghan police officer, an alleged pedophile. In his last phone call home Buckley told his father he could hear abused boys screaming, but was not allowed to do anything about, one of the Marine’s superiors telling him to ignore it because pedophilia, they said, is a part of local culture, The Times expose.
Other resonant occurrences include Green Beret Captain Quinn and Sergeant Martland, the first kicked out of the army and the second currently fighting to continue his military career after beating up a local police commander for holding a boy as a sex slave. “Captain Quinn summoned Abdul Rahman and confronted him about what he had done. The police commander acknowledged that it was true, but brushed it off. When the American officer began to lecture about “how you are held to a higher standard if you are working with U.S. forces, and people expect more of you”, the commander began to laugh, and afterwards was beaten by the Green Berets".
There are numerous similar cases, when US soldiers witnessed child abuse, but were not allowed to do anything about it. The army has argued it is more important to maintain good relations with commanders they can rely on in fighting insurgents than to get into law enforcement, which the army prefers to delegate to local police. However, a real vicious circle, the local police are often mixed up in the abduction allegations. If one’s turning back to people suffering, he or she should not be surprised that one day others will turn their backs in turn.