A Marine who helped an Afghan couple bring a young girl to America for medical care during last year’s withdrawal of US troops has been accused of abducting the child.
In a lawsuit filed last month, the couple alleged Marine Corps attorney Joshua Mast gave officials an Afghan passport for the girl that bore his own last name when he brought the family to Washington DC in August 2021, according to the Associated Press.
Five days after they arrived on US soil, Mast returned with custody papers he’d been granted years earlier and took the child.
The lawsuit accuses Mast and his wife Stephanie of false imprisonment, conspiracy, fraud and assault.
The girl, now three-and-a-half years old, has been at the center of several lawsuits involving the couple and the Masts since she was rescued after a US Special Forces raid that killed her parents and five siblings in 2019.
Following the tragedy, the orphaned 2-month-old was rushed to a military hospital and placed in the care of the Defense Department.
The US Embassy in Kabul then met with representatives from the Red Cross, the Afghan government and the American military, including Mast. They came to the agreement that the US was required to do everything possible to reunite the child with her family.
Despite this, Mast petitioned to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations court in his home jurisdiction of Fluvanna County, Virginia for custody of the child.
The Masts described her as a “stateless minor recovered off the battlefield,” and in November 2019, a judge granted them legal custody.
Joshua Mast said he believed saving the baby from Afghanistan was an act of Christian faith, and in the process went so far as to appeal to high-ranking Trump administration officials to ensure the adoption went through.
The Masts claim the child’s father killed his family by detonating a suicide vest, whereas the Afghan couple’s attorney has said the girl’s parents were innocent farmers and civilian casualties of the US attack.
The Virginia custody order was granted after the Masts claimed the Afghan government intended to waive jurisdiction over the child — though the government never did.
Around the same time, the Red Cross found the child’s cousin and his wife, and reunited the now-8 month old with them in Afghanistan.
Following the reunion, Mast was worried the child was in “an objectively dangerous situation,” according to court documents.
On the baby’s second birthday, a phone call was facilitated between the Afghan couple and Mast, who warned them if the child didn’t receive medical care in the US she could “be blind, brain damaged and/or permanently physically disabled.”
The Afghan man now raising her had worked in the medical field, and did not think her burn scars, leg injury and mysterious allergic reactions were life-threatening or as serious as Mast described. The couple declined to send the baby over.
That changed later that summer when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. Mast contacted the couple again and said to bring the baby back to the US. This time, they agreed.
While at a stopover in Germany, the Masts tried to get the couple to allow the baby to travel separately three times, the Afghan couple allege in their lawsuit.
When they arrived in Washington D.C., Mast took out an Afghan passport that contained a photo of the child and his last name. A woman who called herself a social worker arrived and informed the couple that the Masts were the girl’s legal guardians.
The child was then taken to Mast’s car, where his wife was waiting, the suit alleges.
In response to the lawsuit, the Masts acknowledge they “took custody” of the child, but say their adoption order from Virginia was valid.
The Afghan couple, now living in Texas, have asked the judge in Virginia to reverse the adoption.
With Post wires.