Afghan evacuation raises concerns over child trafficking | MCUTimes

Afghan evacuation raises concerns over child trafficking

U.S. officials are investigating reports that elderly men in the hectic evacuation of desperate Afghans from Kabul were hospitalized along with young girls whom they claimed were “brides” or otherwise sexually abused.

U.S. officials at detention centers in the United Arab Emirates and Wisconsin have identified several incidents in which Afghan girls have been presented to authorities as “wives” of much older men. Although child marriage is not uncommon in Afghanistan, the United States has strict anti-trafficking policies that include the prosecution of offenders and sanctions for countries that do not crack down on it.

An internal document seen by the Associated Press says the State Department has sought “urgent guidance” from other agencies after alleged child brides were brought to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Another document described to the AP by officials who know about it says that Afghan girls at a transit point in Abu Dhabi have claimed that they have been raped by older men they were forced to marry in order to escape Afghanistan.

In this August 31, 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Army, Afghan children take a piece of chalk at a children’s non-governmental charity event in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. U.S. officials are investigating reports that elderly men in the hectic evacuation of desperate Afghans from Kabul were hospitalized along with young girls whom they claimed were “brides” or otherwise sexually abused. An internal document seen by the Associated Press says the State Department has sought “urgent guidance” from other agencies after alleged child brides were brought to Fort McCoy. (Spc. Rhianna Ballenger / US Army via AP)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no immediate comments on the documents or the accuracy of the details in them. Officials say they take all such allegations seriously, but that many of them are anecdotal and difficult to prove, especially amid the crushing of Afghan evacuees in several places in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

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An August 27 situation report sent to all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad as well as military command centers in Florida points to potential issues involving young girls and older men, some of whom claim to have more than one wife at Fort McCoy, a vast 60,000-acre (243 square miles) Army base in Wisconsin. Relevant parts of the document entitled “Afghanistan Task Force SitRep No. 63” were obtained by AP.

“Infirmary staff at Fort McCoy reported several cases of minor women presenting themselves” married “to adult Afghan men as well as polygamous families,” the document said. “The State Department has requested prompt guidance.”

There were no immediate indications from the military or from the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services operating the facility that such guidance had been received.

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At the same time, US officials in the United Arab Emirates have expressed similar concerns, sending a diplomatic cable to Washington warning that some young Afghan girls had been forced into marriages to escape Afghanistan after the takeover of the Taliban.

Officials familiar with the cable say it describes allegations by several girls in the humanitarian city of Abu Dhabi that they had been sexually assaulted by their “husbands” and is seeking guidance on how to deal with such cases. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal communications.

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