The stated goal of the US-led war in Afghanistan, according to the Obama administration, is to defeat the Taliban and establish a stable democratic government over the entire country. Critical to that goal is establishing a professional Afghan Army and police force that is not corrupt and that has the respect of the Afghan people.
But reports out of Canada suggest that, far from creating such a military and police force, the so-called International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) is turning a blind eye to the thuggish criminality of those organizations, both to avoid growing opposition in ISAF member countries and to avoid offending those organizations in Afghanistan.
The issue in question is routine rape of children by Afghan soldiers and police operating on Canadian-run bases in the Kandahar region.
As reported last fall in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, Canadian military chaplains and some soldiers have been complaining as far back as 2006 that Afghan security forces have been sexually assaulting young boys on their base. These military whistle-blowers charge that the military brass has been ignoring or burying their complaints, fearing the bad publicity they could generate.
The paper reported that Canadian military police have also complained, as reported by Brig. Gen. J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, that they were being told "not to interfere in incidents in which Afghan forces were having sex with children."
According to the paper, the Canadian military command has argued that, even though sex with children is against the law in Afghanistan, the practice is culturally accepted and that the Canadian forces "should not get involved in what should be seen as a 'cultural' issue."
Makes you wonder what other "cultural" issues involving Afghan security forces that the Western occupiers might not want to get involved in. Perhaps the oppression of women? That's certainly part of the culture. How about bribery and extortion? Based on the evidence - that the police in Afghanistan are a wholly corrupt entity, and that the Army is not much better - arguing that corruption is "culturally acceptable" would be easy to do. How about drug dealing? Again, that appears to be quite the culture in Afghanistan.
Kudos to the Canadian grunts, MPs and chaplains who found the sexual abuse of children more than they could stomach, and who brought their concerns to public attention at home in Canada when their own commanders sought to cover it up.
It makes me wonder, though, why here in the hyper-moralizing US we haven't heard a peep from our troops about similar behavior by Afghan forces on US-run bases.
It's hard to believe that a practice so common on a Canadian base that it provoked such outrage among Canadian soldiers is not also occurring elsewhere.
This leaves us with two possibilities:
1. US soldiers and marines are just not as willing to go outside the chain of command and go public with their complaints, or
2. The US media are not interested in investigating this kind of story. It involves only Afghans, and who cares about Afghans? What American journalism covers is Americans. (Remember the big spate of stories about the sex escapades of guards at the US embassy in Kabul?)
I'd say it's probably a combination of the two.
At any rate, the picture painted of Afghanistan's Army and police in the Ottawa Citizen article does not bode well for any plan that hinges on their taking over from US and ISAF troops any time soon ... or for the fate of young children of Afghanistan, if and when they do.