Afghanistan

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/67/845–S/2013/245) issued on 15 May 2013.

In 2012, the country task force on monitoring and reporting in Afghanistan reported 66 cases of recruitment and use of boys, some as young as 8 years of age. Verification of such incidents remained a challenge, however, owing to the prevailing situation of conflict and resulting security constraints.

During the reporting period, 47 children were reportedly recruited and used by armed groups, notably the Taliban forces, including the Tora Bora Front, Jamat Sunat al-Dawa Salafia and the Latif Mansur Network, in addition to the Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami. Most were used to manufacture and plant improvised explosive devices and to transport provisions. At least 10 were recruited by armed groups to conduct suicide attacks. On 8 September 2012, a 16-year-old boy was killed while conducting a suicide attack at the entrance to the ISAF headquarters in Kabul. During the attack, seven children were killed and two others injured. There were also reports of cross-border recruitment of children by armed groups, including the Taliban forces, between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In several instances, children in detention reported that they had received military training in madrasas in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In February and September 2012, a Taliban spokesperson rejected reports that the Taliban forces recruited, used or abducted children.

The official age requirements for enlistment notwithstanding, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Local Police were reportedly responsible for 19 cases of underage recruitment in 2012. In May 2012, for example, a 14-year-old boy was observed in police uniform in a police station in the city of Kandahar, reportedly recruited by a relative. During the reporting period, the country task force engaged in consultations with the Government to assess the presence of children within the ranks of the national police and to prevent underage recruitment. Concern also remained over the informal use of children for security-related tasks by the Afghan national security forces, including the national police, the local police and the army.

The country task force documented 189 cases of boys detained in juvenile rehabilitation centres by the Afghan authorities in 2012. A further unknown number of children were held in detention facilities of the national police and the National Directorate of Security. The country task force expressed concern over continuing reports of ill-treatment in those detention facilities, the public display of child detainees in national media and the lack of documentation and follow-up on the release of those children. The exact number of children held in the detention facilities of the international military forces remained unknown. In July 2012, however, the country task force received information that at least 90 children were being held in such a detention facility in Parwan. On 25 March 2013, the facility was transferred to the Afghan authorities. My Special Representative was also informed by the legal counsel of Hamidullah Khan, a Pakistani male, that he had been arrested in August 2008, aged 14 years, by forces of the United States near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and had been detained at Bagram Air Force Base without formal charge, apparently for security reasons, for more than four years. The United Nations has no access or additional information.

The country task force reported 18 incidents of abduction involving 67 boys. Verified information attributed the cases to the Taliban, the local police and other pro-Government militias. Children were abducted for the purposes of recruitment, sexual abuse and also intimidation in cases in which families worked or were perceived to be working for the Government or the international military forces. In one case, on 29 August 2012, the Taliban abducted and beheaded a 12-year-old boy in Kandahar Province in retaliation against his brother, an officer in the local police.

The country task force documented 1,304 conflict-related child casualties. Of those casualties, 283 cases of killing of children and 507 cases of injuring were attributed to armed groups, including Taliban forces. A total of 90 cases of killing of children and 82 cases of injuring were attributed to pro-Government forces, including the Afghan national security forces and the international military forces. The remaining cases, in which 116 children were killed and 226 injured, related to explosive remnants of war, crossfire incidents and cross-border shelling.

The vast majority of the incidents resulted from attacks with improvised explosive devices (399 child casualties) and suicide attacks, including by child suicide bombers (110 child casualties). Children were also victims of explosive weapons in populated areas, including mortar attacks, shelling and shooting between pro-Government forces and various armed groups (397 child casualties), explosive remnants of war (162 child casualties) and air strikes by the international military forces (74 child casualties). Some of the incidents were acknowledged by ISAF. Furthermore, artillery and mortar shelling from across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border killed at least 1 child and injured 25 others.

The country task force received isolated reports of sexual violence against girls and boys by members of armed groups, the Afghan national security forces and the international military forces. While only five cases were reported during the reporting period, sexual violence against children continued to be underreported owing to stigmatization and fear of retaliation. Some boys held in detention on charges relating to national security also reported sexual violence or threats of sexual violence upon arrest by the Afghan national security forces or in detention. At least one of those cases related to the practice of bachah-bazi (sexual abuse of boys by men in a position of power). In this regard, it should be noted that a joint team, comprising the Ministry of the Interior and the National Directorate of Security, was established to detect and investigate such incidents.

The country task force documented 167 incidents affecting education, of which 49 per cent were attributed to armed groups, including Taliban forces, 25 per cent to pro-Government forces and 26 per cent to unidentified perpetrators. Armed groups conducted targeted attacks against schools, including using improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks, burned schools and abducted and killed education personnel. Armed groups were also responsible for acts of intimidation, threats against teachers and pupils and the forced closure of schools. In 2012, the Taliban issued five statements in which it denied attacking schools and announced that it would set up a commission for education. The Taliban also issued a letter in which it opposed girls’ education and threatened girls who continued to attend school, however. Throughout the reporting period, the country task force verified 10 cases of use of schools for military purposes, including 3 by armed groups and 7 by pro-Government forces. It received reports of a further 30 incidents of attacks against health facilities and health personnel, mostly carried out by armed groups. Such cases include abduction of medical personnel and attacks on medical facilities with improvised explosive devices.

The country task force verified 33 incidents of denial of humanitarian access, largely attributed to armed groups, including the Taliban. In some areas, however, armed groups also facilitated the provision of lifesaving health and other emergency services, especially in areas not under the Government’s control.

In March 2012, the Government submitted its first progress report detailing the steps taken towards implementation of the action plan on underage recruitment by the national security forces, which it had signed with the United Nations in January 2011. In particular, the Ministry of the Interior reported the establishment of a monthly monitoring and reporting system, public campaigns on birth registration and training of Afghan national security forces personnel on age assessment procedures. It also provided information on training on child rights and prevention of underage recruitment conducted in seven Afghan national police zones, in addition to awareness-raising on gender-based violence and underage recruitment in 77 schools and 24 mosques. In parallel, the Ministry pursued efforts to prevent the falsification of national identity cards through the development of a biometric identity card system. Child centres established within national police recruitment centres in Ghor, Badghis, Herat and Farah Provinces documented attempts to enlist children into the national police and the army. Consequently, 122 underage recruits were rejected in 2012. Those encouraging measures notwithstanding, sustained engagement by both the United Nations and the Government is needed to build on the momentum created by the signature of the action plan.

The prevailing security situation in Afghanistan and fragmentation of armed groups continued to impede dialogue on the recruitment of children in 2012. The interlinkages between armed groups in Afghanistan made identification of perpetrators and their accountability for violations against children a challenge. Dialogue at the community level, however, continued to prove partially successful, especially with regard to the continuation of vaccination campaigns and the reopening of schools in some parts of the country.

Parties in Afghanistan

  1. Afghan National Police, including the Afghan Local Police.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.