American troops deploying to Afghanistan were told that sexual abuse is a “culturally accepted practice” in the country and that it “was not a priority for the command,” according to a Pentagon report.
“In some cases, the interviewees explained that they, or someone whom they knew, were told that nothing could be done about child sexual abuse because of Afghanistan’s status as a sovereign nation, that it was not a priority for the command,” the report said.
Soldiers who reported cases of sexual misconduct to their superior officers were told that “this is Afghanistan” and “there’s nothing we can do about it.”
The 106-page report was issued in response to a complaint by Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California about child sexual abuse in Afghanistan’s armed forces.
“We determined that the DoD [Department of Defense] did not conduct training for personnel on identifying, responding to, or reporting instances of child sexual abuse involving ANDSF personnel before 2015,” the report said.
The US military launched an investigation into the issue in 2015 after The New York Times reported that US military personnel in Afghanistan were advised to ignore sex abuse of young boys.
In August, President Donald Trump announced his administration’s strategy for Afghanistan, indicating that US troops would remain in the country for an indefinite period of time.
As a candidate, Trump had denounced the US military intervention there as a “total disaster” which drained resources at a time of more pressing needs at home.
20,000 sexual assault allegations in US military
In a separate report on Friday, the Pentagon released sexual assault data for US military installations at home and abroad.
American troops reported more than 20,000 allegations of sexual assault at military installations in four years, according to the report by the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
The report, published in response to a large number of Freedom of Information Act requests, details sexual assaults data for fiscal years 2013 through 2016.
The Army, the largest branch of the US military, reported 8,294 cases in all. The Navy reported 4,788 cases, the Marine Corps 3,400 and the Air Force 8,876.
The report comes amid a sexual harassment scandal in the United States, which has mired powerful men from across the political, cultural and business landscape.