Child soldiers of Afghanistan

I made it a specific point for the Inferno to not wade too far into the weeds when it came to policy and politics. Unfortunately, I came across an article so insidious that I felt I needed to publicly address it. As someone who has fought against and with forces that use child soldiers I feel I have an obligation to reject the idea that it’s ever okay to prey on children in times of conflict.

The article in question can be found hereThis is not the first time think tanks have come up with the idea that IHL, and human rights in general, should largely be ignored for more lucrative goals and partnerships with abusive despots and war criminals. I think as people who’ve fought in wars and seen the result of loose interpretation of our human obligation, we should always speak out against this type of attitude.

Plenty of people I know within the community have almost daily arguments over whether or not the fact that X organization or Y person is a war criminal is important or not.  To put it plainly, committing atrocities or war crimes, regardless of our status of ratification on the treaty it pertains to, is wrong.

“Many in the human rights community oppose this decision and are calling for Afghanistan to be included on that list, but doing so would have serious implications for wider US support to Afghanistan.”

This exceptional mindset of pardoning war crimes any time it’s an inconvenience is not just nebulous at this point. It’s happening on a routine basis and is a very real part of our FORPOL. Our resolute support and willingness to ignore Haji Gulalai’s crimes is one of many examples of this attitude. As seen with the case of Haji Gulalai, this attitude extends past operational support and rewards war criminals with safe haven in the US. A fine example is this Somali war criminal that was working security at an airport.

“Ending the use of child soldiers should be a part of US policy in Afghanistan, but it can’t be all of it.”

Despite it being proven time and time again that war crimes only further sets back Afghanistan’s future, this think tank continues its apologist stance on exposing thousands of children to the most traumatic experiences life has to offer at such an early age. The recidivism rate for child soldiers is a real concern and many never fully rehabilitate from their experiences during childhood. The statement here boils down to the following “your rights as human being end where my international policy begins.”

“The main state-aligned user of child soldiers, and the most likely to continue using them, remains the Afghan Local Police (ALP).”

20% of all US SOF mentoring ALP elements reported a wide variety of war crimes being committed. This was reported in 2011 and I can guarantee you that the true numbers are much higher. The lack of understanding of IHL is pervasive in the military, as many soldiers focus solely on soldier/civilian and soldier/hostile interactions and what pertains to themselves. On top of that, not all units encourage or have effective reporting procedures for war crimes.

“A bit of background is in order. The ALP grew out of a US Special Operations Forces initiative where US trainers worked with willing villages to train their local militias. “

It’s like we haven’t learned either in Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, or any other war where we trained and armed with no vetting whatsoever that it’s a bad thing to do and ultimately destabilizes entire regions for years to come.

“The April UN report documented only 13 verified cases in the Afghan security forces.”

Considering a significant portion of Afghans couldn’t ever tell me their age accurately, I really doubt this is accurate. For the sake of the article, let’s go ahead and remind you, dear reader, of one important fact. Child soldiers in service of a government have to be below the age of 15 to be considered child soldiers. That means all the young teenagers from 15 and up aren’t considered child soldiers. The threshold is already set so low for the convenience of our governments and yet it’s still a systemic problem. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the atrocities taking place in Afghanistan  and being tolerated by the US government I’m not sure what will. 

“Issues like child soldiers attract headlines, but the US cannot expect changes to happen quickly in the midst of a war. “

Let’s take the context away from this statement and see if it makes sense.

“Issues like concentration camps and genocide attract headlines, but the US cannot expect changes to happen quickly when the country is already deeply involved in the war with Japan.”

No. Human rights aren’t negotiable. Our obligation as people, as a country and soldiers is to reject dehumanizing, vile and downright evil thinking. We shouldn’t sit idly by while entire generations are corrupted, traumatized and large portions outright killed off before they hit puberty. I have heard every justification, every reason and every rationalization for war crimes. I have sat in on talks with folks from certain departments and agencies as they debate how they can find loopholes for certain humanitarian conventions. It’s not up for debate and never should be.

 

 

 Links:

(article in question)

Child soldiers matter, but support for a more secure Afghanistan is essential

(Vetting)
http://www.humanrights.gov/dyn/issues/leahy-vetting.html

(recidivism)
http://ejt.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/05/11/1354066115581910.abstract

http://theconversation.com/how-child-soldiers-are-recruited-from-refugee-camps-2938

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259391492_Explaining_Recidivism_of_Ex-Combatants_in_Colombia

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/adam-moscoe/not-just-a-crime-but-a-si_b_3287848.html

(Afghanistan)
Afghan Forces Use Child Soldiers, and the U.S. Still Gives Them Money

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/06/04/research-group-afghan-pro-government-militias-running-amok.html

(War criminals in the US)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/mystery-surrounds-move-of-afghan-torturer-in-chief-to-us-amid-allegations-of-agency-abuse/2014/04/28/0916144a-ca4b-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/01/us/accused-war-criminal-works-at-dulles-airport/index.html

(Ukraine)
http://www.kyivpost.com/multimedia/photo/azovets-patriotic-camp-for-children-396138.html/

(Sudan)
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/02/24/after-the-malakal-massacre-investigating-south-sudan-war-crimes.html

(Waivers)
http://www.humanrights.gov/dyn/the-facts-on-child-soldiers-and-the-cspa/

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