How NATO Covers-up Child Abuse in Afghanistan and Helps the Taliban

This is an appalling, grotesque – but true – story.

As Donald Trump unveils a new military strategy in Afghanistan, here is a story that will have you twisting with rage but understanding why NATO is failing in that country.

If you have not been paying attention to the western intervention in Afghanistan since 2001, you may only be familiar with the story promoted by the mainstream media: NATO troops are fighting, accompanied by honest, decent Afghan allies, against the terrible, drug-smuggling Taliban.

The truth is far more complicated.

The Taliban are, in general, a disgusting lot, but so are many of the people on NATO’s side in Afghanistan. Not only are they disgusting – more of that later – but some of them have also stolen hundreds of billions of dollars of western aid in a long-series of swindles, thefts and con jobs.

In the Kabul Bank scam, money – in U.S. dollars – was shipped to a Kabul airport. Crates of cash were then transshipped into other planes by some of our ‘Afghan allies’ and immediately flown to banks in Dubai and other offshore havens. Money that was supposed to be helping re-build the country went instead into supporting the thieves’ luxurious overseas lifestyles.

It was not just thievery that these scumbags specialized in; the brother of former President Hamid Karzai was a notorious drug lord. He ran the heroin trade for most of Kandahar Province and was responsible for some of the vast increase in illegal narcotics after the Taliban was thrown out of power in 2001.

All this is widely known among both the westerners living in Kabul and the Afghan population.

Incredibly, so is the following story that was researched and written by a good friend and colleague, Anuj Chopra. It tells the tale of children taken by various paramilitary chiefs and used as their personal sex slaves. These chiefs are western allies in Afghanistan. The children are often no older than 8-years-old.

It is at this point that a reader – who does not know the appalling corruption of Afghanistan – may be bewildered. You may be thinking, ‘Hang on! This cannot be true?! Our banks were not emptied for this treachery. Our soldiers did not die for a group of sexual predators to gain power.’

I want to emphasize that there are plenty of good people who are fighting against the Taliban – but there are also many thugs who dishonour all the sacrifice that has been poured into the country.

What is worse, the absolute bottom of the barrel, is that you will see clearly from Anuj Chopra’s articles that many in the western community know that these poor children are being abused by the very people who claim to be our ‘allies’.

Articles below… Read them and be prepared to be very, very angry.

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Afghan soldiers are using boys as sex slaves, and the U.S. is looking the other way
By Anuj Chopra July 18

Jawed, now 19 and working as a dancing boy, sits with his face covered during an interview with Agence France-Presse at a house in Kabul on May 23. (Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Anuj Chopra is the outgoing Kabul bureau chief of Agence France-Presse (AFP). His next posting for AFP will be Riyadh. He tweets at @AnujChopra.

KABUL – Last summer, an Afghan police commander invited me to his post for tea — and to view his “beautiful” boy sex slave.

I stumbled through a farm of chest-high opium poppy stocks to reach his mud-and-wattle outpost on the outskirts of Tarin Kot, the capital of southern Uruzgan province that is teetering in the face of a Taliban upsurge. On its open roof, a slight teenager sat next to his hulking captor, stealing sad glances at me as he quietly filled our tea glasses. A shock of auburn curls jutted out of his embroidered pillbox hat and his milky eyes were lined with kohl. The commander flaunted him the way a ringmaster exhibits an exotic animal. “See my beautiful bacha (boy slave),” he said, blithe and casual, a gun dangling at his side.

The commander, an ally of the United States in the war against the Taliban, is not an anomaly. Hundreds of such outposts of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a front-line force armed and funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars, and other pro-government militias are believed to have enslaved young boys for dancing and sexual companionship, many of them kidnapped.

Freedom from the Taliban’s puritanical regime in 2001 also brought freedom to do “bacha bazi,” the cultural practice of sexual slavery and abuse of boys who are often dressed effeminately and whose possession is seen by Afghan strongmen as a marker of power and masculinity.

As the United States sinks deeper into the Afghan quagmire, preparing to send additional troops into a seemingly endless war, it is glossing over this hidden but pervasive abuse of children by its local allies. U.S. tolerance of this egregious inhumanity sends out the message that it is acceptable for U.S.-backed forces to keep child sex slaves.

It also has strong security implications. I reported last year how the Taliban are exploiting entrenched bacha bazi to infiltrate Afghan security ranks, effectively using child sex slaves — many of them brutally abused and hungry for revenge — as Trojan Horses to mount deadly insider attacks.

Institutionalized bacha bazi, described as culturally sanctioned male rape, is likely to continue unabated in the absence of any real deterrent. The United Nations has called on Afghanistan to urgently adopt legislation to criminalize bacha bazi and swiftly prosecute state officials guilty of the practice.

One senior official in Uruzgan described bacha bazi as an addiction worse than opium, saying commanders compete — and sometimes battle — one another to snatch pretty boys. Many prowl neighborhoods for boys “who have not seen the sun for years,” a cultural euphemism for unblemished beauty.

Last year when I unearthed a kidnapping epidemic of boys, it was disturbing to see local authorities pussyfooting around the issue and using security to rationalize their inaction. On the surface, President Ashraf Ghani has vowed zero tolerance for bacha bazi in security forces. But multiple officials in southern Afghanistan told me that any action against guilty commanders — a bulwark against insurgents — would anger them and cause them to abandon their posts with their loyalists, paving the way for the Taliban. There is therefore no desire to recover or rescue the innocent victims whose lives have been upended by this practice.

To completely understand this perverse logic, imagine an American sheriff with pedophilic proclivities openly snatching children — and instead of rescuing the victims and bringing the sheriff to justice, the administration pandered to his criminal behavior and justified letting him keep his job.

This heartless apathy explains why the commander I met was so shockingly blasé about keeping a sex slave. No senior official has ever been prosecuted for bacha bazi; the commander probably knows that he, too, will escape punishment.

Afghanistan has also become a living tapestry of institutionalized abuse on Washington’s watch. As the conflict unspooled over 16 years, abusive strongmen were propped up to fight insurgents — from unruly militiamen sowing tyranny in their fiefdoms to torturers in military uniforms.

Buttressing abusive allies is a strategy best described as fighting fire with fire, which is pushing Afghanistan deeper into instability and chaos.

Security is a legitimate concern, but turning a blind eye to crimes such as bacha bazi amounts to a serious contravention of America’s Leahy amendment, which bans U.S. assistance or training to foreign military units that fail to honor basic human rights.

The United States needs to deploy the leverages at its disposal in a country heavily dependent on it for aid to end this overriding culture of impunity. Additional troops and financial assistance must be contingent upon urgent reform and prosecution of abusers.

To win in Afghanistan, America cannot afford to lose its humanity.

More of Anuj Chopra’s work on this important issue:

Their Silent Screams: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/afp-journalists-diaries/their-silent-screams/

Stolen Boys:  http://www.france24.com/en/20170626-stolen-boys-life-after-sexual-slavery-afghanistan

Award that Anuj Chopra and his team won:  http://ifj-safety.org/en/contents/afp-kabul-bureau-wins-sopa-award-for-report-on-child-sex-slavery

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