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Child soldiers in Afghanistan
Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), using children under the age of 15 in combat is deemed a war crime because children can either end up dead or traumatized from their experience. Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute.

Furthermore, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict was ratified by Afghanistan in 2003 and states that people under the age of 18 may not be recruited by armed groups under any circumstances. It established the need to take measures, such as prohibition and criminalization of this action, to prevent the use of child soldiers. A violation of this is considered a breach of international law.

 

Conflict Creates Instability

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in order to remove the Taliban from power. Although Kabul was reclaimed, the Taliban still controls some regions in Afghanistan and the war has continued. Additionally, the spread of the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan has aggravated the situation and increased the threat of terrorism. The decades of war and instability have created severe poverty and violence.

Child soldiers in Afghanistan are recruited on both sides of the conflict. Some Afghan children have even been recruited to fight in Syria. The Taliban has recruited child soldiers since the 1990s. Children participate in the war in many ways. They often are sent to combat, go on suicide missions, work in noncombat positions and serve as messengers or spies.

The Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Afghanistan

The Taliban has used Islamic religious schools to train children from a young age. They often begin studying religious subjects taught by Taliban teachers at age six and learn military skills around the age of 13. Usually, these kids are not taken by force. The Taliban schools are an attractive option for poor families since they provide food and clothing for the children.

Despite evidence of young boys participating in combat, the Taliban claims that to participate in military operations they have to prove “mental and physical maturity.” Although child soldiers in Afghanistan are mostly used by the Taliban, they are also used by the Afghan National Police as cooks and guards at checkpoints. Parents often do not oppose this since the boys could be the sole provider for their families.

Girls in the War

The number of girls considered to be child soldiers in Afghanistan is minimal. Danielle Bell, the head of the Human Rights Unit at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, addressed this when she said, “In five years of monitoring and reporting, the U.N. has verified one case of child recruitment of a girl who was a trained suicide bomber.” Although they are not trained as soldiers, girls are often taken and forced into sex slavery for military groups.

The 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act prohibits the U.S. from giving military assistance to countries that use child soldiers. Jo Becker, the children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, has criticized the U.S. for ignoring child soldiers in Afghanistan, saying, “The United States has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to support an Afghan militia that recruits and uses children to fight the Taliban.” Using children for military combat is both a violation of international law and a war crime and the United States government should take proper action against it.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

living conditions in afghanistanIn general, Afghanistan often resides in people’s minds as a war-torn country in an arid environment with a long history of social strife and religious oppression. While those points have merit, many people in the west can have an oversimplified view of the living conditions in Afghanistan.

Everyday Existence

In Afghanistan, not all people live in perpetual fear of attacks, though these incidences do occur. Every day major cities bustle with thousands of shop owners opening their doors and cart-pushers taking to the streets. Few can afford leisure activities, but they do exist. In the capital of Kabul, there are zoos, amusement parks, cricket, football, and buzkashi matches (a traditional sport in which men on horses fight over a goat).

Threat of Attack

However, living conditions in Afghanistan can be harsh. According to a CIA World Factbook, an Afghan’s life expectancy is a meager 44 years. The wars in Afghanistan have been fairly constant since the seventies, and since 1979, more than a million Afghans have been killed and 3 million maimed in internal conflict.

On Thursday, January 18, a bomb went off at a protest in Kabul claiming the lives of 11 people and wounding 25 others. ISIL took credit for the attack, and in recent months, Kabul has been targeted by both Taliban forces as the groups vie for power within the country.

Electricity, Food and Water

Living conditions in Afghanistan need improvement. As it stands, only six percent of people have electricity and as a result must depend on alternative heat sources during the cold winter. Within an hour of the new year, Turkmenistan shut off electricity completely to Northern Afghanistan after authorities in Kabul rejected a demand for a 100 percent price increase.

Food and water are also challenges for many of the displaced people living in Afghanistan. In 2017, nearly half a million people fled their homes due to conflict, with 31 of 34 provinces recording forced displacement. For the displaced, food can be incredibly difficult to come by, as opportunities for employment are few and far between.

Unemployment is rampant, and even those that find work in construction, car repair, restaurants or offices have a hard time providing for themselves. In fact, most salaries are too meager to provide for large immediate families.

The city of Kabul’s population swells with an influx of people from the war-stricken, impoverished countryside. Traffic within the nation’s capital gives Los Angeles a run for its money, and security is everywhere. These physical occurrences are reminders that the threat of attack resides amidst normalcy in the current realities of those living in Afghanistan.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr