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Chaplain says senior officer aware of rapes by Afghans
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Soldier recalls cries from boy brought onto Canadian base

The boy was no more than 12. He wore a wig, lipstick and perfume and was dressed in a flowing robe when an Afghan interpreter escorted him to the entrance of the Canadian base in remote Afghanistan.

It was June 2006 and it was one of Tyrel Braaten's first days at Forward Operating Base Wilson, about 30 kilometres outside Kandahar.

Braaten watched as the local interpreter, who worked for the Canadians, ushered the boy through the security checkpoint and led him inside a nearby building.

The bombardier was bewildered. He asked another interpreter standing next to him who the boy was. The interpreter shrugged that the boy was one of "the bitches."

"I said, `What do you mean?' and he made the motion with his hips, like you know," said Braaten, 24. "I remember saying, `Are we on Mars? Does this s--- go on all the time?'"

The native of Saskatchewan is the latest soldier to come forward alleging in detail how young Afghan boys during his tour in Afghanistan in 2006 were regularly sodomized by Afghan interpreters and soldiers working alongside Canadian soldiers.

For the past four months, the Canadian Forces' National Investigation Service, an arm's-length military investigatory body with the power to lay criminal charges, has been probing claims that Canadian commanding officers ignored the complaints of lower-ranking soldiers about the alleged rapes.

Some soldiers have told military chaplains and medical personnel that they were instructed to disregard the sodomy because of a "cultural difference" between Canada and Afghanistan.

In a new development, Maj. Kevin Klein, a high-ranking chaplain, told the Star that a senior officer confided to him in 2007 that his soldiers were struggling to cope with the rapes. Klein has told his story to NIS investigators.

Recalling the evening when he watched the young boy escorted onto FOB Wilson, Braaten said the boy was taken inside one of the three so-called sentry point buildings on base.

A former member of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry who received a medical release from the military in April and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Braaten said he heard the boy's cries from the building.

It was not an isolated incident. He said similar scenes occurred regularly, typically on Thursday nights.

"Tyrel is still tormented by it," Braaten's mother Donna said from her family's home in Archerwill, a small farming community north of Regina. "I don't think you can take a boy raised in a home like ours and put him in a situation like that, seeing what happened to those boys on the base, and expect him to come back the same.

"This is a kid who when he was 16 went on a mission to Honduras for six weeks because he wanted to help children," she said. "Then he's put in a situation with those Afghan boys where he clearly cannot help. And now he blames himself."

Braaten, who now lives in Saskatoon, said he's felt alone since returning to Canada.

"I have never been to church since; I stopped believing in God."

In a series of answers to emailed questions, a Canadian Forces spokesperson wrote, "The CF take these allegations seriously and the CFNIS is investigating the allegations to determine the facts, analyze the evidence and if warranted, lay the appropriate charges. ... As this case is currently under investigation, it would be inappropriate to discuss any further."

The NIS and a military board of inquiry headed by a retired Canadian brigadier general are expected to return findings from their separate investigations in the spring.

One of the witnesses already interviewed by the NIS is Klein, who spearheaded a well-publicized effort to distribute camouflaged Bibles to soldiers in Afghanistan.

The major confirmed in an interview with the Star that he told the NIS that in mid-2007 he had talked to a commanding officer on leave in Canada about his experiences and asked what had been the most difficult part.

The senior officer said he was struggling to help his soldiers deal with fallout from the sodomy, Klein said.

Klein wouldn't disclose the officer's identity. "Even though I wasn't in a formal counselling session, there's an implicit idea that if I'm talking to someone I'm going to keep that close."

The NIS has also interviewed at least one low-ranking soldier who told another Canadian chaplain that his complaints about the sexual abuses were ignored, said a person familiar with the matter.

Asked why soldiers would have permitted interpreters to bring boys within the FOB's perimeter, one soldier who served at Wilson in 2006 said, "When there are hostiles all around you, the last thing you want to do is pick a fight with an interpreter you really don't know at all who holds your life in his hands."

by Rick Westhead

Source >
The Star | dec 14

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