Growing fears child brides brought to US in Afghan evacuation

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Growing fears child brides brought to US in Afghan evacuation

US officials are looking into reports that elderly Afghan men were permitted to evacuate with young girls they claimed as “wives” — with some of the purported child brides brought to an Army base in Wisconsin, according to a report on Friday.

An internal State Department document dated Aug. 27 said that staff overseeing the admission of refugees at Fort McCoy — about 100 miles northwest of Madison, Wis. — had “reported multiple cases of minor females who presented as ‘married’ to adult Afghan men, as well as polygamous families,” The Associated Press reported.

“Department of State has requested urgent guidance,” added the document, seen by the AP and sent to all US embassies and consulates as well as military command centers in Florida.

It is not clear exactly how many of the incidents of child sexual abuse have been reported.

Meanwhile, US officials in the United Arab Emirates recently sent a diplomatic cable to Washington warning that some young Afghan girls had been forced into marriages in order to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

Evacuees from Afghanistan wait with other evacuees to fly to the United States or an other safe location.
Evacuees from Afghanistan wait with other evacuees to fly to the United States or an other safe location.
Markus Schreiber/AP

Officials familiar with the cable told the AP it described allegations by several girls at the Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi that they had been sexually assaulted by their “husbands.” The officials sought guidance on how to handle such cases.

Officials told the AP that they take all such allegations seriously but that many of them are anecdotal and difficult to prove, particularly amid the crush of Afghan evacuees at multiple locations in the Middle East, Europe and the US.

While child marriage is not uncommon in Afghanistan, the US has strict policies against human trafficking that include prosecution of offenders and sanctions for countries that don’t crack down on it.

In recent days, some Republican members of Congress have expressed concerns that the Biden administration allowed Afghans with criminal records or ties to terror groups to be evacuated while thousands of others who assisted US-led NATO forces during the 20-year war against the Taliban were left to fend for themselves in hostile territory.

A letter to President Biden signed by 26 GOP senators Thursday estimated that more than 57,000 Afghans were evacuated who are not US citizens, green card holders or eligible for so-called Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).

Evacuees from Afghanistan stand at the US Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, 30 August 2021.
The US is looking into if any child brides were in fact brought to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
RONALD WITTEK/EPA-EFE/Shuttersto

The lawmakers said they were “concerned by reports that ineligible individuals, including Afghans with ties to terrorist organizations or serious, violent criminals, were evacuated alongside innocent refugee families.”

The Biden administration has not provided an estimate of the number of legal permanent residents or SIV applicants and holders who remain in Afghanistan, though The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the State Department believes the “majority” of the latter category were left behind.

With Post wires

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