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Child Sex Abuse by Afghan Forces Detailed in Classified Report

Afghan security forces stand guard after an attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan security forces stand guard after an attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

A government watchdog agency called on the Pentagon on Tuesday to declassify a report alleging the sex abuse of children by Afghan security forces.

The classified section on sex abuse is part of the quarterly report to Congress and the Defense Department by the office of John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

SIGAR said the classified section deals with violations of the so-called "Leahy law," a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act barring U.S. aid to human rights abusers.

The classified section "concerned allegations of sexual abuse of children by members of the Afghan security forces, and discusses the extent to which the U.S. holds Afghan security forces accountable. SIGAR has requested that DOD declassify the report so that it can be released to the public," the SIGAR statement said.

The sexual abuse of children by the Afghan army and police has occasionally led to disciplinary action against U.S. troops who tried to stop it.

In one incident that became the subject of congressional debate in 2015, the Army moved to discharge Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, who admitted to roughing up an Afghan police commander who allegedly sexually abused a young boy.

The discharge was delayed following a phone call on Martland's behalf from Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to then-Army Secretary John McHugh.

The Army later issued a statement saying, "Out of respect for Chairman Thornberry's continued strong support for our military, and his personal appeal, Secretary McHugh has agreed to postpone Sgt. First Class Martland's discharge from the Army for 60 days to allow him to file an appeal with the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records."

The New York Times reported that in 2011 Martland and Special Forces Capt. Dan Quinn roughed up an Afghan commander who had allegedly sexually abused a boy. Quinn left the Army, and Martland had said he was being forced to retire for intervening.

Quinn later told CNN that in confronting the Afghan commander, "I picked him up, threw him to the ground multiple times and Charles did the same thing. We basically had to make sure that he fully understood that if he ever went near that boy or his mother again, there was going to be hell to pay."

The Army later reversed its decision to discharge Martland.

The State Department, in its annual human rights reports, has consistently said that sexual abuse of children is pervasive in Afghanistan.

In its 2014 report, the State Department said many child sexual abusers are not arrested, and "there were reports security officials and those connected to the ANP [Afghan National Police] raped children with impunity."

In 2012 in southwestern Helmand province, three Marines were killed by a so-called "tea boy" who served an allegedly corrupt Afghan police commander, Sarwar Jan.

The young man gunned down Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr., 21, of Oceanside, N.Y.; Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson, 29, of San Diego; and Cpl. Richard A. Rivera Jr., of Ventura, Calif., at Forward Base Delhi.

The latest SIGAR report came as the White House and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are preparing a new strategy for Afghanistan that could involve sending more troops to bolster the 8,400 U.S. troops currently serving in America's longest war.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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