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Bill targets Afghan sexual abuse claims

Bill targets Afghan sexual abuse claims
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Sexual abuse on U.S. military bases — domestic and foreign — would be expressly banned under a bill slated to be introduced Thursday in the House.

“The bill makes it the official policy of the United States that sex abuse of any kind by an American or foreign national is not permitted,” said Joe Kasper, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who plans to introduce the bill. “Surprisingly, there is nothing that currently exists” that says this.

The bill is in response to allegations that a Pentagon policy encouraged American troops to look the other way when Afghan police and militia officials sexually assaulted children. U.S. troops were allegedly punished when they did report the abuse.

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The Pentagon’s inspector general is in the process of investigating the allegations. Defense Department officials have repeatedly denied any such policy exists.

Hunter’s bill is called the Martland Act, named after Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland. Martland is facing discharge for his role in beating up an Afghan police commander who kidnapped a young boy and raped him repeatedly.

Hunter, a Marines veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee, has been championing Martland and calling for his reinstatement.

“A lot of this has to do with keeping the spotlight on Charles,” Kasper said of the bill.

The bill cites an existing Pentagon policy against prostitution, forced labor and human trafficking and says a similar policy is needed for sexual abuse.

If passed, it would be “the policy of the United States that human rights violations, including child abuse, shall not be conducted or condoned on any United States military installation, whether located in the United States or overseas, by either citizens or nationals of the United States or foreign nationals,” the bill reads.

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The Pentagon would have 90 days after the bill’s passage to come up with a plan to implement the policy.

“The Department of Defense and the Army also has been quite content with leaving this as an issue for the Afghan justice system,” Kasper said. “That’s not to say they condone it either. Rep. Hunter and no one here is going to able to reverse the Afghan sex abuse culture overnight. But how about we start somewhere and say we will not allow this on U.S. bases and installations?”