Afghan soldiers are using boys as sex slaves, and the U. His next posting for AFP will be Riyadh. He tweets at AnujChopra. 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. The commander, an ally of the United States in the war against the Taliban, is not an anomaly.
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. 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.
On the surface, President Ashraf Ghani has vowed zero tolerance for bacha bazi in security forces. 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.
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. 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. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon. The story must be told. Your subscription supports journalism that matters.