(CNN) – The Pentagon is responding to allegations that U.S. military members were told not to intervene, as Afghan commanders sexually abused young boys.
The New York Times reports that some military members have even been removed from their posts, after speaking up.
They’re called dancing boys, tea boys or, by many who have had to turn a blind eye to them, Afghan sex slaves.
A subculture of Bacha Baazi or “boy play” is widely known in Afghanistan.
But for U.S. service members there, the abuse of these children is infuriatingly hard to stop. Especially when the abuse comes from American-backed Afghan commanders there.
In a 2010 PBS documentary, a former afghan commander of the northern alliance spoke openly, shamelessly, about this sick practice.
Today the New York Times reports that the American military stands accused of ordering troops to purposely turning a blind eye to the abuse in order to maintain good relations with Afghan forces.
Retired U.S. Army Captain Dan Quinn, said, “The reason that we weren’t able to step in with these local rape cases is that we didn’t want to undermine the authority of the local government. We were trying to build the local government. Us acting after the local government fails to can certainly undermine their credibility.”
Retired U.S. army captain Dan Quinn tells CNN that he and sergeant first class Charles Martland were punished for confronting an admitted afghan child rapist – a police commander.
Captain Quinn said, “The confrontation turned physical. I picked him up and threw him onto 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.”
And he tells CNN that he and Martland were relieved of their duties shortly after that confrontation. Martland is being involuntarily discharged by the army next month.
Terrorism expert Jessica Stern said, “I think the fear is that if we were to intervene, we wouldn’t have the kind of close working relationship that we need with Afghan military.”
Stern says this is far from an isolated incident. She’s spoken to several servicemen who say they were disturbed by what they saw.
Stern said, “They must have felt that they couldn’t respond in the way that they would have liked to. It was clearly a very painful subject.”
Congressman and veteran Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, is trying to save Martland’s career, writing to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, “Martland stood up to a child rapist. I trust you will give this case the attention it demands.”
A Pentagon spokesman told CNN “we have never had a policy in place that directs any military member, or any government personnel overseas to ignore human rights abuses. Any sexual abuse… Is completely unacceptable and reprehensible.”