Pentagon watchdog to investigate allegations of Afghan child abuse

The Pentagon’s Inspector General is looking into a spate of recent reports regarding U.S. military commanders’ mishandling of child sexual assault cases in Afghanistan since 2011.

According to a memorandum posted online Wednesday, the inspector general’s initial research into the issue is meant to establish certain criteria for “potential future work.”

The watchdog’s interest in the matter is just one more element in a longstanding problem that has plagued U.S. forces and their Afghan allies for years. The issue, however, was recently brought to light in September when The New York Times published a report that highlighted U.S. service members’ encounters with Afghan troops who were sexually assaulting young boys. Many of these service members were told to ignore the abuse and not get involved. In one case, Army Special Forces Capt. Dan Quinn and Sergeant First Class Charles Martland did try to intercede when they assaulted an Afghan soldier after Quinn and Martland walked in on him assaulting a boy. Quinn was subsequently removed from Afghanistan and shortly after kicked out of the Army. Martland was also removed from the Army but has since appealed his decision.

The ensuing public outcry after the publication of the Times report forced the top U.S. general in Afghanistan to respond. Army Gen. John Campbell wrote in a statement in September that he had personally served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and was “absolutely confident that no such theater policy has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed” throughout his time there as commander.

The newly released Inspector General memo, however, is looking into these claims and has outlined a series of questions it wants answered before proceeding with its investigation.