Afghanistan briefing: Ongoing Recruitment and Use of Children

Ongoing Recruitment and Use of Children by Parties to the Armed Conflict in Afghanistan

March 2016

The Afghan National Police (ANP) including the Afghan Local Police (ALP) and three armed groups including Taliban forces are listed as persistent perpetrators in the 2015 Annual Report of the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council on children and armed conflict for the recruitment and use of children.

In 2011 the Afghan government signed a Joint Action Plan for the Prevention of Underage Recruitment (the Action Plan) with the UN. In 2014, the government’s Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict endorsed a 15-point Road Map toward compliance with the Action Plan, drafted jointly by the Afghan Government and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG), UNICEF and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Measures outlined in the Road Map include the criminalisation of the recruitment and use of children (any person under 18 years of age); the development of a policy to ensure that children arrested and detained on national security charges are treated in line with international juvenile justice standards; and improved age-verification mechanisms.

Despite commendable progress by the government on some of the targets contained in the Road Map, Child Soldiers International received information regarding the recruitment of three children by the Afghan National Army (ANA) in 2015. In addition, research conducted by Child Soldiers International in Afghanistan between October and December 2015 in six provinces (Uruzgan, Kunar, Kunduz, Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad), confirms that:

  • The recruitment and use of children by the ANP and the ALP is on-going, and is significantly more prevalent within the ALP than within the ANP. Of particular concern is the prevalence of informal recruitment into the ALP, whereby official recruitment procedures are bypassed, which is a major factor contributing to the recruitment of children
  • Inadequate age verification procedures, overall low levels of birth registration, and a prevalence of opportunities to falsify identity documents continue to contribute to on-going underage recruitment and use in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)
  • The unlawful and arbitrary detention of children continued to be reported, as did torture and ill treatment while in custody
  • The sexual abuse of children by named commanders of the ANSF continued to be reported, although it was not possible to document evidence of specific incidents

Efforts to verify the presence of children in the ranks of the ANSF, demobilise and rehabilitate them have been impeded by access constraints and serious security concernsThis briefing offers a set of recommendations, which, if implemented, would contribute to ending and preventing the recruitment and use of children by parties to the armed conflict in Afghanistan.

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