WASHINGTON -- The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Tuesday he expects U.S. personnel to report to military superiors any allegations of sexual abuse of boys by Afghan forces.
He added that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has assured him the government "will not tolerate abuse of its children."
The statement from Army Gen. John Campbell, who heads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, came in response to reports that Afghan forces who worked with U.S. military personnel sexually assaulted boys and that U.S. troops were told to ignore suspicions of abuse.
Members of Congress have complained that a U.S. soldier was forced out of the military because he intervened in 2011, attacking an Afghan police commander he believed was raping a child.
Campbell, in his statement, said he was confident there had never been a policy that U.S. troops were to ignore suspicions of abuse.
The general said he expects "any suspicions of sexual abuse will be immediately reported to the chain of command, regardless of who the alleged perpetrators or victims are."
Campbell said if the alleged abuse involves Afghans, the reports will be forwarded to him and to the staff judge advocate so that the Afghan government "can be advised and requested to take action."
The general said Ghani "made it clear to me that the Afghan government will not tolerate the abuse of its children, or any of its people, and will thoroughly investigate all allegations and administer justice appropriately."
The State Department, in its annual human rights reports, has consistently said that sexual abuse of children remains pervasive in Afghanistan. In its 2014 report, the State Department said that 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."
The New York Times reported that U.S. soldiers and Marines said they were told to look the other way when they suspected child sexual abuse by Afghan forces and in some cases were disciplined for trying to stop it.