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US troops told 'nothing could be done' about Afghan abuse
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 16, 2017

Thousands more US troops arrive in Afghanistan: general
Washington (AFP) Nov 16, 2017 - Approximately 3,000 additional American troops have now deployed to Afghanistan under President Donald Trump's revised strategy for the war-torn country, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The Pentagon had previously put the number of US forces in Afghanistan at about 11,000 but Trump in August authorized an increase requested by the commander on the ground, General John Nicholson.

"We've just completed a force flow into Afghanistan," Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told Pentagon reporters.

"The new number for Afghanistan is now approximately 14,000. Might be a little above that, might be a little below that as we flex according to the mission."

The extra troops will help train and advise Afghan security forces, who are struggling to beat back a resurgent Taliban.

Nicholson has said he needs nearly 16,000 troops overall in Afghanistan, and NATO nations have pledged to help make up the difference.

Aside from additional troops, Trump's plan also comprises an open-ended US troop presence in Afghanistan, where his predecessor Barack Obama had ordered a calendar-based draw-down of American forces.

US troops who served in Afghanistan were previously told that "nothing could be done" about child sex abuse at the hands of Afghan security forces, according to a government report released Thursday.

The Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General began reviewing Pentagon guidance for troops deploying to Afghanistan following a series of news stories in 2015 about widespread pedophilia by Afghan police and soldiers.

Primarily at issue is Afghanistan's entrenched custom of "bacha bazi", or the sexual abuse of boys, who are forced to dress in girls' clothes, dance and have sex with older men.

The Inspector General spoke to several US troops who said their commanders had shrugged their shoulders when they reported concerns about possible abuse.

"Personnel we interviewed explained that they, or someone whom they knew, were told informally that nothing could be done about child sexual abuse because of Afghanistan's status as a sovereign nation, that it was not a priority issue for the command, or that it was best to let the local police handle it," the report states.

One person who was interviewed said he or she had been aware of an Afghan commander keeping little boys "for pleasure."

"The interviewee reported to the chain of command and had been told, 'There's nothing we can do about it,' 'It was out of our control,' 'This is Afghanistan,' or 'It's their country," the report states.

Investigators identified 16 allegations of child sex abuse involving Afghan government officials between 2010 and 2016, though a lack of reporting guidance makes it impossible to know if this was the totality of cases.

The Inspector General found that while the Pentagon had no policy expressly discouraging personnel from reporting incidents of child sexual abuse, cultural-awareness training identified child sexual abuse as a "culturally accepted practice" in Afghanistan.

In September 2015, the New York Times reported that US troops in Afghanistan had been instructed by their superiors to overlook cases of Afghan police or commanders sexually abusing teenage boys, even if it took place on military bases.

At the end of 2015, troops began to receive PowerPoint presentations titled "Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Human Rights Abuses."

AFP last year reported how the Taliban exploit bacha bazi to infiltrate security ranks.

The AFP story 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.

When asked about the Inspector General report, Pentagon press secretary Dana White said troops are all obligated to report abuse allegations.

"There's a very concrete system in which they do that," she said.

NATO looks to seize momentum in Afghanistan conflict
Brussels (AFP) Nov 9, 2017
Defence ministers from across the NATO alliance meet in Brussels on Thursday to review next steps in the Afghanistan conflict and brainstorm ways to deal with the 16-year-old security crisis. NATO this week announced it would be sending some 3,000 extra troops to the war-torn country, bringing the Western military footprint up to about 16,000 soldiers. The additional troops, most of them ... read more

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