In 2011, two Army Green Berets stationed in the Kunduz Province assaulted an Afghan police official they had learned had been keeping a young boy in sexual slavery. Now, those two soldiers are gaining support from lawmakers, comrades, and others after being subjected to harsh administrative actions that have effectively ended their careers.
As The Daily Beast reports, Sgt. First Class Charles Martland and Capt. Dan Quinn were assigned to village stability operations—working alongside Afghani locals to build relationships and train police officials—when they learned that police official Abdul Rahman was keeping a young boy chained to his bed. Allegedly due to pleas from villagers and the boy's mother, the soldiers did something about it and attacked Rahman.
The next day, Colonel Steve Johnson visited the base to speak with soldiers. Johnson was instrumental giving the soldier administrative punishments for their actions, claiming "they put their team’s life at risk by doing what they did, by risking catastrophic loss of rapport," and the entire base was "out there alone with minimal protection and relied on local Afghan police and their relationship with the district governor." Adding more complexity to the case, sexual abuse is considered "systemic" in Afghanistan and is regarded by the Army to be a cultural issue rather than part of their primary mission.
Now disciplined, Martland and Quinn are prevented from ever being promoted again, but some are now calling for a reconsideration of their case. Support for Martland and Quinn is strong online (where many of their fellow servicemen must resort to anonymous handles) and Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has been appealing to the Secretary of Defense to review the case.
"That exemplifies the problem with the Army," Rep. Hunter told The Daily Beast. "To say that you’ve got to be nice to the child rapist because otherwise the other child rapists might not like you is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard."
A "CULTURAL" DILEMMA
Even Colonel Johnson admits that child abuse in Afghanistan has a different (and troubling) cultural standing than it has here in America, but still maintains that the soldiers should have acted differently. By resorting to violence, the soldiers failed to "take the big-picture view,” and "didn't fix anything by doing what they did. If anything they made it worse.”
As The Daily Beast details however, there is some suspicion that the soldiers may have believed that Afghan officials may have let the abuse stand—or that they lacked the training to deal with the situation in the first place. Military personnel are now exposed to plentiful information on how to deal with and prevent sexual abuse among the ranks but receive zero training on how to assess and handle sexual abuse when it’s encountered in foreign populations.
While Colonel Johnson has remained steadfast of his assessment of the case and his assertion that "you cannot try to impose American values and American norms onto the Afghan culture," others are more skeptical. As one anonymous service member expressed in a LinkedIn discussion on Quinn and Martland's case: "De Opresso Liber [to liberate the oppressed]… is this our creed or just talk?”
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