Traumatic fight for Baby L: Marine Joshua Mast who adopted Afghan war orphan sparks international dispute

Traumatic fight for Baby L: Marine Joshua Mast who adopted Afghan war orphan sparks international dispute
Marine Joshua Mast with Baby L, the Afghan war orphan he adopted (CBS video screengrab)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: A US marine, who was accused of abducting an Aghan war orphan, has spoken in defense of the child's adoption claiming they only want what's best for the 3-year-old girl. The little girl identified as Baby L is a survivor of a special operations raid in rural Afghanistan, that killed her parents and five siblings in September 2019. The child was only 2 months old at the time, was seriously injured, and was transported to a military hospital. 

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During this, Marine Joshua Mast came across the baby and decided to keep the child. "The moment when we heard about [Baby L] for the first time, it wasn't a difficult decision to make," Mast's wife Stephanie Mast told CBS. "It was just, there was an innocent child caught in an unfortunate situation, and we wanted to see if there was anything we could do to help, and we were able to." However, later the military hospital was able to identify the child's relative and arranged for their reunification. Since then, the matter has become the center of an international custody battle after the child's relatives claimed Mast lured them to the US under false pretense and took custody of the child.

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The legal custody battle for the child is currently being played out in court after US Justice Department filed a motion to intervene arguing that Mast's adoption was a violation of Virginia law and should never have been granted. The Mast's claimed the Afghan couple's accusations are "outrageous" and "unmerited," in court documents. Mast is accused of using his status in the military to convince the Virginia court to skip some of the usual safeguards that govern international adoptions.

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"We have been honest about who we are and our concerns over the child from the very first day," said Stephanie. After the US military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, Mast helped the Afghan couple to travel to the US with the child. But the couple that is identified as Jane and John Doe claimed they haven't seen the child since, prompting them to sue the Masts. They added that they believed they were bringing Baby L to the US for medical treatment and never agreed to possible custody. 

"Since we have come to America, we have not felt happiness for even one day," the Afghan man told the AP, reported Daily Mail. "We feel like we are living in a dark jail." Even though the Afghan government determined the Afghan man was Baby L's first cousin, there has so far been no DNA evidence to support their blood ties, indicating the man has denied DNA testing, according to the court filings. Since then, Mast has raised suspicion about whether the Afghan couple is related to Baby L at all. 

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Mast said, he acted "admirably" to bring the child to the United States for her well-being. They say they've given her "a loving home" and have "done nothing but ensure she receives the medical care she requires, at great personal expense and sacrifice." The Masts argue that Baby L is "an orphan of war and a victim of terrorism, rescued under tragic circumstances from the battlefield." The legal battle of Baby L has culminated the White House to comment on the case. "We are all concerned with the well being of this child who is at the heart of this matter," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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