Monday, October 29, 2007

Airstrikes 'putting children at risk' - UNICEF

Earlier this week, UNICEF issued a special report on Afghanistan, Child Alert Afghanistan (pdf here). Excerpts:

... Of the 37 nations in ISAF, it is principally Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States that are engaged in combat in the south and east of Afghanistan. Their intensive use of air power in support of ground troops, whose numbers are limited, is putting children at risk. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission believes that neither side has respected the laws of armed conflict and that children in particular are more vulnerable than they have been at any time during the war. The commission’s records include, for example, an account of a two-day battle in Helmand Province, in June 2007, during which the Taliban were engaged in action against the combined forces of ISAF and Afghan soldiers and police. Neither side appeared to suffer any casualties, but air strikes claimed the lives of 27 civilians, including 17 children. ...

... Child soldiers are commonly recruited by warlords and used in tribal warfare. They served in the ranks of the irregular armies that overthrew the Taliban. While they were sometimes forced to fight, they were more frequently used as guards, cooks and commanders’ personal servants.

... No children are recruited into the Afghan National Army or into the police. Children’s advocates are concerned about the police auxiliary, however, because there have been anecdotal reports that it maintains informal associations with children. The Taliban, who respect no laws or conventions, remain the greatest cause for concern. However, the insurgency is not thought to be using large numbers of underage fighters at this time. Young men living in areas not controlled by the central government may be drawn to fight for the Taliban because they will be better paid than if they join the Afghan Army. Volunteers are not in short supply, and the Taliban can rely on the recruitment of adults, both national and foreign. ...

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