The Defense Department is expanding an investigation into allegations that certain Afghan leaders sexually abused children during periods when they were aligned with American military units.
The announcement Monday from the Defense Department Inspector General follows reports that the Army last summer was prepared to discharge a former Joint Base Lewis-McChord Green Beret who assaulted an Afghan village leader and admitted child rapist in 2011.
That soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, is still awaiting a review of his military service records, launched in October, that may result in him continuing his Army service.
The new review from the Inspector General builds on a preliminary inquiry it began last summer following demands from members of Congress that highlighted Martland’s pending expulsion from the military.
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Lawmakers “have raised serious questions about international, U.S. and Department of Defense law or policy related to child sexual abuse” by Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, deputy inspector general Kenneth Moorefield wrote in announcing the expanded investigation.
Moorefield wrote that the inquiry intends to ask:
▪ What laws or standards governed how American military service members responded to reports of child sex abuse among their allies?
▪ Was there a Defense Department policy that discouraged troops from acting on reports of sex abuse?
▪ How many cases of sex abuse among Afghan troops were reported to Afghan or American authorities?
▪ Did American troops have any authority to use force if they witnessed child sex abuse by their Afghan allies?
Martland in 2011 was serving on a one-year deployment with JBLM’s 1st Special Forces Group in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province when he and his detachment commander beat up an Afghan villager leader who admitted to them that he had raped a boy. The Afghan had the backing of the U.S. military because he was selected as a local police commander.
Influential men in Afghanistan sometimes take part in an illegal but reportedly common practice of taking boys as sexual partners. The practice is known as bacha bazi.
Former Capt. Dan Quinn, Martland’s former detachment commander, told The News Tribune in August that he and Martland lost their temper with the Afghan because soldiers did not intervene to stop two other incidents during their deployment when their allies committed acts that the Americans considered morally reprehensible. One involved the rape of a teenage girl; the other allowed an honor killing of another girl.
Quinn and Martland “felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our (Afghan local police) to commit atrocities,” Martland wrote in a letter released by U.S. Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California.
The soldiers were disciplined for assaulting their ally. They were supposed to report perceived unethical conduct among their allies, not use force to stop it.
Commanders also believed the assault could have endangered other Green Berets.
Martland’s discipline for the assault eventually made him a target for Army downsizing. In its post-Iraq war drawdown, the Army is culling soldiers with demerits in their records.
The Army in October gave Martland more time to appeal his discharge after receiving criticism from lawmakers. A decision was due by March 1 from the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, but it likely will be postponed.
“We’d rather them take the time to get the decision right than get it wrong,” said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Rep. Hunter.