A lawsuit charges that the U.S. military’s indifference to the crime of Afghanistan officials sexually abusing boys led to the killings of three Marines in 2012 by the youthful companion of a corrupt Afghan police chief.
Despite warnings that the chief, Sarwan Jan, and his boy entourage should be expelled from Forward Operating Base Delhi, Marine Corps commanders let him stay. On Aug. 10, one of his “tea boys” walked into the base gym and gunned down the three Marines, including Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. of Long Island, whose parents are fighting out a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
“There was no investigation or scrutiny into, or monitoring of, Jan or the unknown boys and young men he brought onto FOB Delhi,” states the lawsuit, filed by New York lawyer Michael J. Bowe, who took the case pro bono.
Mr. Bowe told The Washington Times, “Jan never should have been there. We believe these abuses contributed to Greg’s death because aligning our troops with those committing these horrific acts made our troops targets and because in looking the other way commanders failed to maintain a level of control over the base necessary for safety.”
A culture of high-ranking Afghan police, politicians and warlords routinely raping boys has been the focus of war stories since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
An article in Monday’s editions of The New York Times, posted online Sunday, has placed new emphasis on the debauchery by pointing out that U.S. commanders generally ignore the practice, even if the crimes happen on American bases.
In fact, two Green Berets were punished by their Army superiors because they physically accosted an Afghan local police leader for raping a boy and beating his mother. The Green Beret A-team leader chose to leave the Army. The Army has selected his sergeant, Charles Martland, for involuntary separation because of the reprimand.
Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement Tuesday saying there is no official policy to look the other way.
He said he personally spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “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,” the four-star general said.
But an Army veteran of several tours in Afghanistan said senior commanders almost always told officers to not make an issue of witnessed abuse.
“Sure, there is nothing that precludes a service member from telling the chain of command, although one caveat,” the soldier told The Washington Times. “The chain of command usually responds with ‘that is not our business.’ Although there is nothing precluding anyone from reporting it, typically a blind eye is turned by most senior officers, and it is viewed almost as a cultural difference rather than a human rights violation.”
In the Buckley killing, Marine commanders allowed Jan, a notorious police chief, to set up shop at base Delhi with his boys. They arrived at a time when insider attacks, known as “green on blue,” were happening at an alarming rate as the enemy persuaded Afghans to turn on Americans and kill them.
“My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture,” Gregory Buckley Sr. told The New York Times. “‘At night, we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,’” Mr. Buckley recalled his son saying.
Jan was expelled previously from an Afghan village, Now Zad, because of corruption and for fear that he collaborated with the enemy Taliban.
A Marine intelligence officer at the time, Maj. Jason Brezler, sent an email dossier to base Delhi in 2012 outlining Jan’s shady past. But commanders allowed him to stay.
The Marine Corps subsequently kicked out Maj. Brezler for sending the classified dossier on an insecure email account. He has gone to federal court to overturn the decision.
Kevin Carroll, who is representing Maj. Brezler pro bono along with Mr. Bowe, said that indifference to child rape is the exact reason three Marines are dead.
Mr. Carroll told The Washington Times, “Not only did the Marines allow Sarwan Jan to rape nine young men and boys on base, one of whom grabbed a rifle and murdered three Marines, the Marine commander also lowered base security twice in deference of Afghan cultural sensibilities, despite Jason Brezler’s warning of the threats posed by Sarwan Jan.”
Jan was expelled from Now Zad, the Buckley lawsuit states “because Jan, and those under his control, were extorting Now Zad residents, kidnapping and keeping Afghan boys as sex slaves, trafficking in narcotics, and providing arms, munitions, and Afghan police uniforms to the Taliban to facilitate insider attacks on Marine and other coalition forces.”
The lawsuit says Marine commanders made a tragic error by looking the other way as Jan operated his boy harem right under their noses.
“Tragically, Marine commanders not only permitted Jan to return to FOB Delhi, but inexplicably took no steps in response to Brezler’s subsequent warning,” the lawsuit states. “There was no investigation or scrutiny into, or monitoring of, Jan or the unknown boys and young men he brought onto FOB Delhi. No steps were taken to restrict the ability of Jan or his entourage to execute or facilitate insider attacks such as securing Afghan weapons or posting armed Marine guards in areas in which they had access. No warnings or instructions were issued to Marine personnel, especially to the Marine advisers working and living in close proximity with Jan and his entourage of unknowns.”
Mr. Bowe said the Marine Corps has stonewalled the family’s request for documents detailing the Navy Criminal Investigative Service inquiry into the three killings. His lawsuits asks the District Court judge to order the Marines to turn over the file.
“The Marine Corps has conducted no investigation into the tragic deaths at FOB Delhi, [and] provided none of the required record disclosures,” the lawsuit says.
Mr. Bowe said the Obama administration has asked the judge to dismiss the case.
In July 2014, an Afghan judge classified the killer as a juvenile and sentenced Ainuddin Khudairaham to 7 years in prison.
He killed the Marines with an AK-47 and proclaimed he had joined jihad.
Also killed were Cpl. Richard A. Rivera Jr. and Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson.
Press reports from Afghanistan say Jan was promoted from police chief and assigned to another base.
The Washington Times made inquiries with the U.S. command press office in Kabul, which said it could not supply any information on Jan.
On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Ernest responded to queries about American service members being asked to look the other way when child rape occurs by touting the administration’s deep concern for protecting “basic human freedoms.”
“The United States is deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of Afghan boys who may be exploited by members of the Afghan national security and defense forces,” Mr. Ernest said. “This form of sexual exploitation violates Afghan law and Afghanistan’s international obligations. More broadly, protecting human rights, including countering the exploitation of children, is a high priority for the U.S. government. We monitor such atrocities closely and have continually stood up for those who have suffered exploitation and denial of basic human freedoms.”
On the question of what Americans can do to stop the rapes, he referred reporters to the Pentagon.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters on Tuesday, “We consider these reports of sexual abuse to be abhorrent. We are deeply concerned about it. This form and sexual exploitation of children is a violation of Afghanistan’s laws and international obligations.”
As to reports that service members are told to ignore child rape, Mr. Cook said such a policy doesn’t exist.
“There is no policy in place that directs any U.S. military or government personnel overseas to ignore human rights abuses,” he said. “On the contrary, we monitor such atrocities closely and have continually stood up for those who have suffered exploitation and denial and basic human freedoms.”