Afghanistan's government say it has undertaken “serious measures” to enforce the law and prevent sexual abuse reportedly committed by local police commanders against children.
A presidential statement issued Wednesday evening in Kabul has condemned as an "iniquitious, inhumane and irreligious act” the abuse, known as bacha baazi, or “boy play."
A New York Times report this week detailed extensive rape and other sexual abuse of young boys at the hands of local Afghan police commanders and American-trained Afghan militias. It went on to allege that U.S. soldiers were ordered not to intervene in order to maintain good relations with Afghan allies.
The report has cited court records and interviews with U.S. military officers. It notes that in certain instances American soliders have been disciplined for disobeying the policy of non-intervention.
President Ashraf Ghani spoke to all security authorities of the country via video teleconference and directed them to prevent “recurrence of any such acts through taking instructive, reformative and punitive measures,” the presidential statement said.
“The laws, culture and religious values of the people of Afghanistan recognize sexual abuse of children as one of the severest crimes and violations of human rights,” it quoted Ghani as saying.
The Afghan government warned that “commission of such crimes, especially in the ranks of the Armed Forces, is intolerable; it will not hesitate to take measures to prevent this abominable phenomenon,” the statement added.
It also directed relevant government institutions to form a working committee for investigating and monitoring, and coming up with an oversight mechanism to prevent and prosecute the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children.
In his response to the reported charges on Tuesday, Commander of the NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Campbell rebuffed the claims that American soldiers and Marines were told to ignore complaints of the sexual abuse of young boys.
“I personally have served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and am absolutely confident that no such theater policy has ever existed here, and, certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander,” Campbell said.
He added that "any suspicions of sexual abuse will be immediately reported to the chain of command, regardless of who the alleged perpetrators or victims are."
U.S. officials say that General Campbell has also raised the issue with President Ghani and secured a commitment from him that the Afghan government would redouble their efforts to investigate, and hold accountable those who are guilty of perpetrating such acts.
Concern that sexual abusers of children are able to act with impunity was raised earlier this year by the U.S. State Department. Its Trafficking in Persons report noted that "Some law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges accept bribes from or use their relationships with perpetrators of bacha baazi to allow them to escape punishment."