Pentagon-Funded Afghan Units Involved in Gross Human Rights Abuses

Military Has Repeatedly Granted Special Exemptions for Violators

In theory, the Leahy Law bans the US government from directly assisting foreign forces that have been found to commit gross human rights violations. In practice, the Secretary of Defense can grant special exemptions “for national security reasons.”

Which is tantamount to not even having a law, as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a new report requested by members of Congress related to reports the Pentagon was keeping US troops from reporting Afghan forces for sexually assaulting children. This was referred to as “bachi bazi,” or “boy play.” The report does not paint a pretty picture.

Indeed, the SIGAR report says that Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter routinely granted exemptions to a number of Afghan units who had already been implicated in gross human rights abuses.

Some in Congress are suggesting this requires some modification to the Leahy Law to prevent the mass use of exemptions. Pentagon officials expressed opposition to this, however, saying they believe the law needs to be balanced with America’s “national security objectives.”

The SIGAR report did, however, say they were unable to find evidence that the Pentagon explicitly ordered troops not to report Afghan troops abuses, but also weren’t trained on how to do so if abuses were observed.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.