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DOD watchdog launches full probe into Afghan sexual abuse claims

DOD watchdog launches full probe into Afghan sexual abuse claims
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The Pentagon’s inspector general is launching a “full assessment” into multiple reports that the U.S. military encouraged troops to ignore their Afghan allies' sexual abuse of children.

“We are conducting this assessment in response to concerns raised by the staff of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and various members of Congress,” a memo released Friday reads. “They have raised serious questions about international, U.S. and Department of Defense law or policy related to child sexual abuse by [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] personnel.”

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The assessment comes after the inspector general announced in October it would “research” the allegations as a basis for potential further investigation.

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. troops were allegedly punished when they did report the abuse.

The allegations drew swift condemnation from lawmakers, who used described the practice as “savage.”

Pentagon officials have repeatedly denied that any such policy exists.

In its memo, the inspector general says it will focus on what laws, standards and other guidance affected Pentagon policy toward allegations of child sexual abuse involving ANDSF personnel, whether any informal or formal guidance discouraged reporting the abuse, how many cases of child sexual abuse have been reported and whether U.S. troops can use force to stop the abuse if when they witness it, among other issues.

The inspector general will also look at how the Pentagon implemented the Leahy Law, which prevents U.S. support of foreign militaries that have committed human rights violations.

The inspector general’s assessment comes on top of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) inquiry. Last month, SIGAR announced it would look into the allegations after 93 lawmakers demanded an investigation.

-- Updated at 12:51 p.m.