Watchdog opens new probe into Afghan sexual abuse claims

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A Pentagon watchdog is launching an inquiry into allegations that the U.S. military encouraged troops to ignore their Afghan allies' sexual abuse of children.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) announced the probe Friday in its quarterly report. It comes after a bipartisan, bicameral group of 93 lawmakers demanded an investigation.

“The inquiry will also look into the manner in which the Leahy amendment prohibiting DOD and the State Department from providing assistance to the units of foreign security forces that have committed gross violations of human rights is implemented in Afghanistan,” the inspector general said in its report.

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In September, The New York Times reported on an alleged policy that kept U.S. troops from reporting when Afghan police and militia officials sexually assaulted children in a practice known as "bacha bazi" — or "boy play." U.S. service members were allegedly punished when they did report the abuse.

Pentagon officials have repeatedly denied that any such policy exists. But the allegations drew swift condemnation from lawmakers, who have described the practice as “savage.”

The 93 lawmakers, led by Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyOvernight Tech: Obama signs FOIA reform bill | Musicians take YouTube fight to Europe | Feds probe first driverless car death Obama signs bill to expand access to federal records Dems leery of Planned Parenthood cuts spark Senate scuffle MORE (D-Vt.) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), requested SIGAR open an inquiry in December, according to the quarterly report.

The Pentagon’s inspector general announced in October it would research the allegations with a goal to “gather and review information, identify criteria and analyze previous reporting as a basis for potential future work.”

SIGAR’s inquiry will complement those efforts, according to its report.

The 230-page quarterly report also provides an overview of reconstruction costs in Afghanistan. To date, the U.S. government has appropriated $113.1 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction, according to the report.

That breaks down into $68.44 billion for security, $31.79 billion for governance and development, $2.93 billion for humanitarian aid and $9.94 billion for civilian operations. Of the security and governance and development money, $8.4 billion has gone to counternarcotics efforts.