KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Reports that U.S. troops were ordered to ignore child sexual abuse by allies in Afghanistan were denied Tuesday by Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
A story in Monday's New York Times told of U.S. Marines who witnessed numerous examples of Afghan soldiers sexually abusing children. It added the U.S. soldiers were told to ignore the incidents and treat them as examples of local culture, and one soldier, Army Special Forces Capt. Dan Quinn, was relieved of his command after beating an Afghan militia commander who allegedly had a boy chained to his bed.
Based on interviews and court records, the story suggested "bacha bazi," or "boy play," is common among Afghan leaders in positions of power over local civilians, and that U.S. soldiers were instructed not to intervene, including in incidents which occurred on U.S. military bases.
Campbell, in a press release and a Facebook post Tuesday, said he was "absolutely confident that no such theater policy (of denial) has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander."
"I expect all personnel to treat others with respect and dignity. I further expect that any suspicions of sexual abuse will be immediately reported to the chain of command, regardless of who the alleged perpetrators or victims are... I have personally spoken with President (of Afghanistan) Ghani on this issue and he 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. I want to make absolutely clear that any sexual abuse or similar mistreatment of others, no matter the alleged perpetrator or victim, is completely unacceptable, and reprehensible."