U.S. Investigating Reports Girls Among Afghan Evacuees Forced to Marry Older Men to Escape

U.S. officials are investigating reports that girls among Afghan evacuees were forced to marry older men in order to escape the country following the Taliban's takeover, the Associated Press reported.

U.S. officials in the United Arab Emirates have expressed concern that some young Afghan girls had been forced into marriages so they would be able to flee Afghanistan. The officials sent a diplomatic cable to Washington warning that some of the evacuees are child brides or otherwise sexually abused.

An internal document described to the Associated Press by officials familiar with it says that Afghan girls at a transit site in Abu Dhabi have come forward with allegations that they were raped by older men they were forced to marry in order to escape Afghanistan.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghan Refugees Virginia
U.S. officials are investigating reports of young Afghan girls who were forced to marry older men in order to escape Afghanistan. Refugees board a bus at Dulles International Airport that will take them to a refugee processing center after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 31, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

U.S. officials at intake centers in the United Arab Emirates and in Wisconsin have identified numerous incidents in which Afghan girls have been presented to authorities as the "wives" of much older men. While child marriage is not uncommon in Afghanistan, the U.S. has strict policies against human trafficking that include prosecutions for offenders and sanctions for countries that don't crack down on it.

One internal document seen by The Associated Press says the State Department has sought "urgent guidance" from other agencies after purported child brides were brought to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

The State Department had no immediate comment on the documents or the veracity of the details in them. Officials say 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 United States.

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 sprawling 60,000-acre Army base in Wisconsin. Relevant portions of the document, titled Afghanistan Task Force SitRep No. 63, were obtained by the AP.

"Intake staff at Fort McCoy reported multiple cases of minor females who presented as 'married' to adult Afghan men, as well as polygamous families," the document says. "Department of State has requested urgent guidance."

There was no immediate indication from the military or from the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, which run the facility, that such guidance had been received.

Officials familiar with the cable from the intake center in the United Arab Emirates say it describes allegations by several girls at the Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi that they had been sexually assaulted by their "husbands" and seeks guidance on how to handle such cases. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal communications.

Afghan refugee children
U.S. officials are looking into reports that in the frantic evacuation of desperate Afghans from Kabul, older men were admitted together with young girls they claimed as “brides” or otherwise sexually abused. In this August 31 , 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Army, Afghan children take a piece of chalk at a children's activity event held by non-governmental charities at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. Spc. Rhianna Ballenger/U.S. Army via AP