A Marine Corps officer is being accused of kidnapping an Afghan child. 

Joshua Mast, now a major, is a Marine Corps lawyer who in September 2019 was deployed to Afghanistan. The child, referred to in court documents as “Baby Doe,” was just two months old when her home was raided in a joint operation by U.S. and Afghan government forces. Her parents and five of her siblings were killed during the raid, and according to court documents, U.S. troops pulled her from the rubble in the aftermath. She had sustained serious injuries, including “a fractured skull and femur, and second-degree burns.”

Baby Doe was transported to a military hospital, and in November of that year Mast apparently began “aggressively” advocating to adopt her. According to court documents, the Mast family petitioned a local Virginia court to grant them custody of the child, describing her as a “stateless minor recovered off the battlefield.” Mast and his family spent the next two years fighting for custody before eventually taking Baby Doe from the arms of her family when they arrived in the U.S. in August 2021 following the chaotic evacuation of Kabul.

The saga of Baby Doe was originally reported by the Associated Press. The Marine Corps declined to comment to Task & Purpose.

Months after the raid, the child was released back to her family in Afghanistan, a paternal cousin and his wife; the Mast family, though, was apparently intent on adopting the child, who he described as a “victim of terrorism.” Now out of Afghanistan and back in the United States, Mast continued to petition for custody Baby Doe, claiming she would be made into a child soldier, suicide bomber, or sold into sex trafficking if she continued to live in the country. 

The Mast family filed a lawsuit in 2020 asking that the child be sent to the U.S. for medical care. The lawsuit went ignored by the Justice Department, which said the adoption “would have potentially profound implications on our military and foreign affairs interests.”

According to court documents, Mast and his attorney brother, who is also involved in the case, were bound by law to recognize that the child was supposed to be considered an Afghan citizen, and therefore bound by the laws of the country. In other words, the Mast family and their lawyers should have known that the child was legally bound to her remaining Afghan family. 

But the Masts pressed on. According to court documents and the Associated press, Baby Doe was cared for by her biological family even as Mast worked the legal system to process an adoption. Mast’s family wrote then-Vice President Mike Pence and then-White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The Mast family also communicated with Baby Doe’s guardians that they wished to provide medical treatment in the U.S for the child. 

When Baby Doe and her guardians arrived in the United States in August 2021, shortly before the fall of Kabul, the Mast family met them at an airport, presented them with a passport for the child, and left with Baby Doe in tow. Her Afghan family, who now lives in Texas, hasn’t seen her since. 

According to the Associated Press, the little girl, is now 3 ½ years old. And she isn’t the only child suddenly displaced by the Taliban’s sweep of Afghanistan last year: More than 120,000 people were evacuated from the country, including more than 1,o00 children who left without a parent or guardian. 

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