Justice: ISAF & Afghan Pedophilia — an Open Letter

07 Other Atrocities, Cultural Intelligence

Justice is BlindA Rebuttal to Dr. David Price (Saint Martin’s University), Dr. Roberto González (San Jose State University), and Mr. Paul McLeary (Foreign Policy Group) from Jeffrey Bordin, PhD – 9 OCT 2015

Mr. McLeary, regarding your recent ‘Foreign Policy’ article Ghani Promises ‘Serious Measures’ Against Afghan Troops Who Sexually Abuse Children, you wrote:

A May 2011 study published by George Washington University cited Afghans’ “cruelty toward women and children” as a main driver of U.S. troops’ disdain and negative perceptions toward the very people they were deployed to protect. The study, by military behavioral scientist Dr. Jeffrey Bordin, offered a relatively half-hearted recommendation: That more research and development was needed to develop cultural training and behavior standards.

And Drs. Price and Gonzalez, regarding your recent ‘CounterPunch’ article The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan, you wrote:

Two years later, in 2011, the Army released a draft training handbook which explicitly advised US personnel to ignore abuses perpetrated by Afghan security officers. The handbook, entitled “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility,” was written by … Jeffrey Bordin (2011).

Nowhere in this document, or in any others I have produced, do I state such an immoral proclamation for troops to ignore any type of abuse they observed in Afghanistan, quite the contrary. My question to all three of you is did you even bother to read this Red Team field study before making these false accusations? Below is a partial selection of relevant excerpts from the 70 page unclassified version from the National Security Archives:

However, this is not a call for appeasement to a highly toxic culture … All too often, ISAF political and military officials as well as the international media have prostrated themselves before the altars of multiculturalism, moral relativity and political correctness and have excused inexcusable behaviors on the part of the Afghans (witness one senior ISAF official who described a riot that included an Afghan mob’s heinous murder of 7 UNAMA workers, beheading two, … in response to a copy of the Koran being burned … as “understandable passions”). Such ethically challenged apologist perspectives hinder any movement towards advancing the Afghan culture beyond its toxic medieval mentality or curbing a violent and unquestioning ideology.

Several U.S. Soldiers reported that they had observed many cases of child abuse and neglect that infuriated them and alienated them from the civilian populace. They made it very clear that they wanted nothing to do with people who treat children so cruelly. Although not reported by the U.S. Soldiers who participated in this study, there have been numerous accounts of Canadian troops in Kandahar complaining about the rampant sexual abuse of children they have witnessed ANSF personnel commit, including the cultural practice of bacha bazi, as well as the raping and sodomizing of little boys. (One reason some Afghan civilians prefer insurgents over the ANSF are the latter’s propensity to seize their little boys at checkpoints and sexually assault them.) U.S. Soldiers witnessing such barbaric acts may likely lead to violent confrontations with the perpetrators.

Similarly, U.S. Soldiers sometimes mentioned the poor treatment and virtual slavery of women in Afghan society and how they found such practices repugnant. They found it unpalatable to befriend other men who had such primitive beliefs; the cultural gulf was too wide. They also were repulsed by the abuse and neglect they observed in how children are treated in Afghan society. U.S. Soldiers largely reported that they did not care for Afghan civilians due to these factors as well as their suspected sympathies for the insurgents. More research should be completed on U.S. Soldiers’ attitudes and experiences with the Afghan civilian populace.

“How they treat their women and children is disgusting; they are just chattel to them,” one unidentified U.S. Soldier said in the study.      http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB370/docs/Document%2011.pdf

History shows there was a senior command failure to timely accept and utilize my 50+ recommendations. http://www.stripes.com/previously-rejected-report-is-now-key-to-us-effort-to-curb-insider-killings-in-afghanistan-1.201751, www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA601559. And, based on my interviews and focus groups with the nearly 700 Afghan troops and over 200 US Soldiers as well as the other ethnographic research from this Red Team field study, I also reported in other venues the need for an explicit and thoroughly communicated policy whereby ISAF troops be directed to report to their chain of command any suspected cases of pedophilia and other forms of child abuse that may have been committed by Afghan troops and officials. I also voiced concern for the mental health of ISAF troops witnessing such acts and not being permitted to respond. My later written products regarding these multiple concerns along with corresponding recommendations were rejected (and in one case directed to be destroyed) by the ISAF commander at the time, despite the Leahy Law.

ISAF HQ’s Official Reaction to my Red Team Report in June, 2011:

Coalition officials disputed the report’s conclusions. “The findings are not consistent with our assessment” of Afghan forces, said Coalition spokeswoman LCDR Colette Murphy. The study, she added, “was systematically flawed, and suffered from generalizations, narrow sample sets, unprofessional rhetoric, and sensationalism.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303499204576389763385348524

My warnings were dismissed as “unprofessional rhetoric and sensationalism.” Most critically as a consequence, the lives of many scores of Coalition troops were lost to insider attack murders, and, according to recent media accounts, members of the Afghan National Security Forces continued to prey on children largely unabated. Another vastly lesser consequence was that I was publicly disgraced, fired, thrown out of country, and pilloried in the unquestioning press for having had the audacity to be honest and insightful while identifying distasteful issues and emerging threats that authorities chose to remain willfully ignorant of. (From my observations, purging those relatively few daring to speak truth to power was common; sycophancy and dishonesty were pervasive in order to create ‘good news’ to promote a Pollyanna fantasy of the Afghan War. Such duplicity was amply rewarded.)

Further, not a single member of the press or academics working in the field ever approached me regarding my research on Afghan pederasty. But some have mischaracterized and outright lied about my work, as you are doing now. And my attempts during this period to consult with various members of Congress on this study proved futile; none ever followed up my requests for contact. I was almost universally shunned, persona non grata. And now you have the gall to falsely state that my analyses and recommendations were “half-hearted,” “downplay child abuse as a cultural quirk,” were “consistent with the nonchalant attitude…” and “Bordin reveal(s) a profound misunderstanding of anthropology–and of Afghan society.” However, I was perhaps the first to bring this subject, as well as other pressing and noxious concerns, to ISAF leadership’s attention in the form of an extensive social science field study of the Afghan National Security Forces. Therefore, the inexcusable failure of a timely response to its findings and recommendations lies with others.

Additionally, it apparently never occurred to you that one would refrain from going into more detail on pederasty given that this was an unclassified report; I also wrote a classified version. However, as a result of my efforts to enlighten ISAF authorities on various pernicious issues, including pedophilia among Afghan troops, I received a devastating double-barrel shotgun blast to the face of my professional career. And now, given the belated attention to the pervasive child sexual abuse in Afghanistan, there are attempts at denial and feigning ignorance that this cultural pathology was ever brought to senior leadership’s attention in the first place (e.g., http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/09/21/buchanan-nyt-sex-abuse/72567638/shades of CPT Louis Renault?) And the fawning obtuse press, academics, and other relevant parties have timidly failed to challenge such powerful oligarchs on this blatant lie (this would require a degree of professional integrity and moral courage). Yet, such deferential impunity of the elite aside (i.e., Hillary Rules), you do persist to engage in unfounded, profoundly uninformed, and scornful sniping attacks on my efforts in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, there really was little, if any, follow-up on the Afghan pederasty issue I had warned of in my 2011 report until recently. Consequently, it is both ironic and ludicrous that you now accuse me of being dismissive regarding the topic of pedophilia in Afghanistan and of having a nonchalant attitude, especially given that I purposely and voluntarily endangered my life to complete the field study in question. In fact, I proposed and lobbied for over 2 years to be permitted to complete this, with much caustic resistance, before it was finally and belatedly officially sanctioned for execution in late 2010. Other inconvenient facts that further challenge your false allegations include my having commenced work in the child abuse field 33 years ago and in the international human rights field 29 years ago. This includes having conducted field research in 9 other war zones during my career. My concern and involvement in these areas was my primary motivation for becoming an applied research psychologist to begin with. Furthermore, having spent nearly 7 years in Afghanistan conducting socio-cultural studies, much of that time outside the wire (including some of the most intensely kinetic, austere, and remote regions throughout the country), my knowledge of Afghan culture is reasonably substantive. Finally and most importantly, the lives of 32 of my friends, associates, and work colleagues were sacrificed during the Afghan War. So to accuse me of being “nonchalant” and “half-hearted” regarding my efforts and recommendations there are despicable lies. Thus, your vacuous arm-chair based false accusations are contemptible, unethical, libelous, as well as a pathetic professional failing reflective of both gross negligence and moral cowardice.


Jeffrey Bordin, PhD

Political & Military Behavioral Scientist

TRADOC-Certified Red Team Leader & Human Terrain Team Leader

‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’ – Arthur Schopenhauer