Afghanistan

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/68/878–S/2014/339) issued on 15 May 2014.

Although the recruitment and use of children remained underreported owing to security constraints, the United Nations documented the recruitment and use of 97 children (all boys), as young as eight years of age. The majority of the children (72) were reportedly recruited and used by armed opposition groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Nine of the children were recruited to conduct suicide attacks. In one incident, in May 2013, a 15-year-old boy conducted a suicide attack against an Afghan Local Police commander in Muqur district, Gazhni Province, killing three local police officers and two civilians, and injuring 16 civilians. Children were also recruited to manufacture and plant improvised explosive devices, as combatants and for other roles, including as sex slaves. In one particular case in Laghman Province, State authorities arrested 21 children, as young as seven years of age, allegedly on their way to Pakistan for suicide attack training by the Taliban. The Taliban rejected the allegations. According to the Government, all the children were released and reunited with their families. The recruitment and use of 25 children was attributed to the Afghan national security forces, including 14 by the local police, 5 by the national police and 1 by the Afghan national army. For example, a 12-year-old boy was killed when national police elements forced him to check a suspicious looking object. One boy associated with the Afghan national army in Kunar Province was used as a porter and was injured by an improvised explosive device. In a positive trend, child protection units within national police recruitment centres in the western region rejected 132 boys from voluntary enlistment.

According to the Ministry of Justice, 196 boys were held in juvenile rehabilitation centres across the country on national security-related charges, including for alleged association with armed opposition groups as of December 2013. The United Nations remained concerned regarding several reports of alleged ill-treatment and sexual abuse of child detainees. On 31 July 2013, the United Nations was granted access to the Parwan Detention Facility to meet with 2 of the 70 boys who had been arrested by international military forces between December 2009 and May 2013 and had been detained in the facility under the authority of the Government of Afghanistan at the time of the visit. Most of the children are believed to be in detention without charges and without the opportunity to have access to a court to assess the lawfulness of their detention.

At least 545 children were killed and 1,149 injured in 790 documented incidents. Child casualties increased by 30 per cent in 2013 compared with 2012. Armed opposition groups, including the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami, were responsible for a majority (889) of the recorded child casualties. The use of improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks, including by boys in at least two instances, resulted in the killing of 229 children and in injury to 396 others. On 17 May, for example, two improvised explosive devices were detonated in Kandahar city, killing a six-year-old boy and injuring 18 boys and a girl, as young as four. Pro-Government forces, including international military forces, were responsible for the killing of at least 81 children and injury to 125 others, mainly resulting from clashes with armed groups. At least 120 of those casualties were caused by Afghan national security forces, which, as part of the handover and transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, has taken the lead in all operations since 18 June. Thirty-seven children were killed and 19 others were injured in international military air strikes. In addition, clashes between pro-Government forces and armed groups resulted in 167 children killed and 432 injured, including by gun shots and artillery and mortar shelling, for which it was not possible to verify a perpetrator. Some incidents were acknowledged by international security forces. Finally, civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes increased from 16 in 2012 to 59 in 2013, including the killing of 2 children. For example, on 27 November, in Mohammad Aqa district, Logar Province, a 10-year-old boy was killed in a reported drone strike on the premises of Shahid Ghulam Sakhi High School.

Twelve incidents of sexual violence against 11 boys and five girls were verified during the reporting period, including by the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the national police. Sexual violence against children remains a feature of the conflict but continues to be underreported owing to a climate of impunity as well as fear of reprisals and stigmatization. At least 15 boys detained by Afghan national security forces on national security-related charges claimed to having been raped or received threats of sexual violence upon arrest or in detention. Several reports on the sexual abuse of boys by Taliban and Haqqani Network commanders were also received, including from a 16-year-old boy formerly associated with the Haqqani Network and arrested by the national police in December 2013. The practice of bacha-bazi, the use of boys as sex slaves by men in positions of power, remained a serious concern. The Government stated that any act of sexual violence against children by elements of the Afghan national security forces was subject to criminal investigation, and an educational programme to prevent the practice of bacha-bazi was prepared in 2013 with the assistance of the national police.

Schools continued to be attacked by parties to conflict or indirectly damaged in clashes. In at least 73 incidents, schools were attacked, resulting in the killing of at least 11 children and in injury to 46 others. In some incidents, improvised explosive devices were planted inside school premises by armed opposition groups. Schools were also damaged by nearby suicide and improvised explosive device attacks targeting public areas or Government and international military forces, resulting in the killing of children. The Taliban also continued to issue threats against girls’ schools and other schools. For instance, in May 2013, local Taliban members in Nangarhar Province, issued a letter in which they threatened teachers and children at a girls’ school with acid attacks if they continued to attend school. Also in May, in Zabul Province, the Taliban forced the closure of 40 schools in retaliation for Government action against the groups. At least 13 teachers were killed or injured in 2013 and eight teachers were abducted by armed opposition groups.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Education, approximately 115,000 children were affected by the temporary or permanent closure of 539 schools owing to the security situation in the southern (482 cases), south-eastern (39) and western (18) regions. In addition, the military use of schools by the Afghan national security forces continued to put children at risk of attacks by armed groups and affect their access to education in at least 15 documented incidents. For example, in October, in Warduj district of Badakhshan Province, the Afghan national security forces temporarily closed down three schools for use as forward bases and installed artillery on the roofs. The Government states that orders have been disseminated to all Afghan national security forces units to refrain from using schools or health clinics as bases.

Incidents affecting access by children to health care included damage to health-care facilities, the placement of improvised explosive devices within the premises of clinics and hospitals, and forced entry into and looting of health-care facilities. In addition, at least 39 health-care personnel were killed or injured, abducted or intimidated. All the incidents were attributed to armed opposition groups, except one incident of forced entry into a health-care facility and its temporary use by international military forces and two incidents involving the intimidation of health-care personnel and forced entry by Afghan national security forces. The remaining incidents were attributed to armed opposition groups, including the Taliban. Although the Taliban publicly supported polio vaccination efforts in 2013, local factions in several provinces continued to restrict access for vaccination campaigns.

At least 30 children were abducted in 17 verified incidents, including 16 attributed to the Taliban and other armed opposition groups. Children were abducted for their alleged involvement in spying on behalf of the Government or international forces, for recruitment, sexual abuse and as reprisal against family members working or allegedly supporting the Government or international forces. At least
10 boys abducted by the Taliban were executed, including 2 who were abducted on 23 May for alleged spying for the Afghan national security forces in Bati Kot district of Nangarhar Province, as stated in a letter issued by the Taliban. Both boys were tortured before they were killed. On 19 October, in Bala Buluk district, Farah Province, in the only documented incident perpetrated by the local police, four boys were summarily executed after being abducted and blamed for planting improvised explosive devices for armed opposition groups.

At least 83 humanitarian staff were abducted and 35 were killed or injured by armed opposition groups during the reporting period. Humanitarian access was also affected by at least 23 incidents of attacks on or looting of humanitarian convoys and facilities of humanitarian agencies.

I welcome the progress made regarding compliance with the action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, including owing to the unimpeded access granted to the United Nations for screening purposes and the continuing build-up of child protection units within national and local police recruitment centres. I encourage the Government of Afghanistan to redouble its efforts and expedite the implementation of the action plan in line with the 15-point “road map towards compliance”, drafted in August 2013 with the United Nations and the assistance of the Office of my Special Representative. I note that the Government submitted its third progress report in March 2014, in which it detailed the steps taken towards the implementation of the action plan, and that international organizations have offered to assist the Government in its obligations in that regard.

Parties in Afghanistan

  1. Afghan National Police (ANP), including the Afghan Local Police (ALP).This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005). (a)
  2. Haqqani network (a, b)
  3. Hezb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (a, b)
  4. Taliban forces, including the Tora Bora Front, the Jamat Sunat al-Dawa Salafia and the Latif Mansur Network (a, b,d)

* The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.
(a) Parties that recruit and use children.
(b) Parties that kill and maim children.
(d) Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.