The Pentagon is facing sharp scrutiny from lawmakers for reportedly punishing U.S. soldiers who tried to prevent the sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan, according to a letter sent Monday to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R., Fla.) expressed shock and dismay at reports that U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan were ordered to ignore the sexual abuse of young boys by Afghans working with the Untied States in the war torn country.
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"I urge you to immediately reverse the Pentagon’s shameful policy of punishing soldiers who try to stop the sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan," Buchanan wrote in a letter to Dempsey that describes "a chilling policy that told American soldiers to look the other way when Afghan allies sexually abused young boys, sometimes on military bases."
"American soldiers serving our nation in the Army and Marines in Afghanistan have been told to stand down when encountering child sexual abuse perpetrated by local allies," Buchanan writes, citing a new report by the New York Times. "Protecting child predators is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as a nation. I call on you to end this shameful policy immediately."
Buchanan expresses particular shock over allegations that those U.S. soldiers who tried to report and prevent the abuse faced retaliation by officials.
"It is bad enough if the Pentagon is telling our soldiers to ignore this type of barbaric and savage behavior, but it’s even worse if we are punishing those who try to stop it," the lawmaker wrote.
A copy of the letter also was sent to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.