US watchdog reports on Afghanistan child sex abuse

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A US government watchdog has filed a secret report to the US Congress into allegations of child sex abuse by the Afghan security forces and the extent to which the US holds them accountable.

According to the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which on Tuesday announced it had sent the classified findings to lawmakers, Afghan officials are failing to stop sexual exploitation.

Primarily at issue is the entrenched custom of what is known in Afghanistan as bacha bazi — or the sexual abuse of boys — and whether the US is turning a blind eye.

“Afghan officials remain complicit, especially in the sexual exploitation and recruitment of children by Afghan security forces,” SIGAR said in a quarterly publication that described the outline of the report.

The Afghan government has failed to identify or help victims, the report said.

In some cases, the Afghan government arrested and prosecuted trafficking victims as criminals.

“Victim-protection efforts remained inadequate, as all but one government-run shelter for trafficking victims remained closed during the reporting period,” SIGAR said.

Neither the Pentagon nor the Afghan government immediately responded to requests for comment.

Under US rules called the Leahy Laws, the Pentagon and the State Department are barred from providing assistance to any unit of a foreign nation’s security forces if credible information exists that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

NATO forces headed by the US provide training, equipment and other assistance across the Afghan security forces.

Bacha bazi sees young boys decked out as pretty women to symbolize power and primacy for those who control them.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this year laid out stringent penalties against bacha bazi for the first time in a revised penal code, but the government has given no timeframe over when they will be enforced.

The new rules came after last year the Taliban was exposed to exploit bacha bazi to infiltrate security ranks.

The report detailed how Taliban insurgents are using children to mount crippling insider attacks that have killed hundreds of police in southern Afghanistan over the previous two years.

SIGAR said it had asked the Pentagon to declassify the report.

SIGAR’s latest quarterly report came as the Afghan security forces continue to struggle against a resurgent Taliban, and US generals have said the situation is at a stalemate at best.

It lists a litany of shortcomings in Afghan governance and US oversight, and previous reports have found that billions of dollars in US reconstruction money is being poorly overseen and waste is rampant.