Washington, 28 April 2016 – Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland will stay in uniform
after an extraordinarily public fight to save his career following an incident in which he
violated military policy by beating up an Afghan police commander who was sexually
abusing a boy.
The Army said late Thursday that Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland will not be
discharged. It’s a reversal from an earlier decision that raised ire in some corners
from lawmakers such as Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, who introduced legislation
on the soldier’s behalf, to the group Veterans of Foreign Wars, to online petitioners
who gathered thousands of supporting signatures.
Martland’s backers accused the U.S. government of tolerating and even inadvertently
condoning the rape and sexual slavery of boys in exchange for alliances with military
and police commanders who help oppose the Taliban and insurgents.
Called bacha bazi, or “boy play,” the abuse is a longtime custom practiced in parts
of Afghanistan — and in Iraq and other Middle Eastern places where American
troops have served for more than a decade, analysts have said.
“The Army Board for Correction of Military Records determination modified a
portion of one of SFC Martland’s evaluation reports and removed him from the
(Qualitative Management Program) list, which will allow him to remain in the Army,”
an Army spokesman said in an email to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Hunter, who is widely credited as leading the congressional campaign to save
Martland’s career, praised the about-face by military leaders.
At issue was a 2011 altercation that Martland and a Green Beret officer had with the
Afghan police commander, who was known for sexually abusing a boy and chaining
the child to his bed. Martland has written to Hunter saying that after the commander
laughed off the soldiers’ concerns about his conduct, they threw him to the ground,
then kicked and body slammed him until he ran away.
Scholars and Middle Eastern cultural experts have said “boy play” is a product of
sexual repression in some highly conservative cultures — and of poverty, as it is
poor children who are usually preyed upon.
The U.S. Army designated Martland for “involuntary separation” because of his role
in the assault, which happened in Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan, where
American soldiers were working alongside the Afghan army and police units.
The other Green Beret, Capt. Daniel Quinn, was relieved of his command and later
left the Army.