Since NATO forces overcame the Taliban government in 2001, Afghanistan has been gripped by an increasingly violent and complex armed conflict. At the end of 2014, historic elections ushered in a national unity government, NATO ended its combat mission and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) formally took lead responsibility for the country’s fragile security. Despite this, the conflict has intensified as ANSF have struggled to counter the Taliban’s efforts to regain control of the country. Numerous militias and armed groups operate, most of whom are known to use children in some capacity.

The issue

After decades of violent conflict, severe poverty and a lack of other opportunities have driven children into the fighting on all sides. Children taking part in hostilities risk being killed, injured or sexually abused, and have been used as suicide bombers. For many children in Afghanistan, war is a way of life.

Case study

In 2015, Child Soldiers International interviewed a 17-year-old boy from Kunar province who had signed up when he was 15 or 16 using a fake ID card. During his recruitment, only the doctor who completed his medical examination asked his age. He went on to join a group of approximately 60 other new recruits for training in Kabul. He thinks that about a quarter of them were younger than him.

Our impact

Our research has increased the spotlight on child recruitment by the Afghan armed forces and police, and the challenge of preventing it. We have used our findings to keep the issue high on the international agenda, and were the first to push for practical changes in law and policy to help the government and its partners to meet those challenges.

Photo © Kiana Hayeri/Child Soldiers International