Children, Not Soldiers: Afghanistan Fact Sheet

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.

The Government of Afghanistan faced sustained security challenges in the reporting period, most notably following the presidential elections. In my previous annual report, I highlighted the significant spike in the killing and maiming of children in Afghanistan. In 2014, the reported number increased by 48 per cent, to 2,502 child casualties.

The United Nations documented the recruitment and use of 68 children (65 boys, 3 girls) of which 22 were verified (all boys), one each by the Afghan National Police and the Afghan local police and 20 associated with the Taliban and other armed groups. This marks a decrease in child recruitment and use in Afghanistan compared with 2013, when 97 children were reportedly recruited and used. However, owing to widespread underreporting, these figures do not accurately reflect the situation. In a worrisome trend, the Taliban continued to recruit children to carry out suicide attacks and to plant improvised explosive devices, and used them in active combat and as spies. For example, on 9 February, a 14-year-old suicide bomber detonated explosives near an Afghan National Security Forces checkpoint in Sharan district, injuring six civilians and five national police officers. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The pilot child protection units in the national police in four provinces reportedly prevented 156 children from enlisting, indicating a potential for a large and beneficial impact if such units are replicated across the country. In addition, the local police reported 55 cases of rejected underage applicants.

As at December, according to the Ministry of Justice, 258 boys were held in juvenile rehabilitation centres across the country on national security-related charges, including association with armed groups. Of 105 child detainees interviewed by the United Nations between February 2013 and December 2014, 44 reported having been subjected to ill-treatment or torture.

The increase in child casualties included at least 710 children killed and 1,792 injured in 1,091 separate incidents. Armed groups, including the Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami, were responsible for 1,343 child casualties (392 killed, 951 injured), Afghan national security forces for 396 (126 killed, 270 injured), and international military forces for 38 (24 killed, 14 injured). Cross-border shelling from Pakistan resulted in 57 child casualties (5 killed, 52 injured). The United Nations was unable to attribute 668 child casualties (163 killed, 505 injured), particularly in incidents of crossfire.

Ground engagements were the leading cause of child casualties, resulting in the killing of 311 children and injury to 920 others, nearly double the number in 2013. Attacks with improvised explosive devices by armed groups caused 664 child casualties. Suicide attacks resulted in 214 child casualties, up by 80 per cent compared to the previous year. Explosive remnants of war killed or maimed 328 children. Air strikes by international military forces resulted in 38 child casualties, including eight from drone strikes.

In nine incidents, eight boys and six girls reportedly were victims of sexual violence. Of these, five cases, affecting four girls and two boys, were verified. Four verified incidents were attributed to the national police, and one incident to a pro-Government militia commander. On a positive note, regarding accountability, a local police member from Laghman Province was sentenced in March to 10 years of imprisonment for sexual assault and attempted rape of a seven-year-old boy.

Schools were attacked in 163 verified incidents, including 29 attacks or threats of attack against protected personnel and 28 incidents of placement of improvised explosive devices inside school premises. Several attacks were related to the use of schools as polling stations. A total of 94 incidents were attributed to the Taliban and other armed groups, 1 to international forces and 68 incidents that could not be attributed. Girls’ education was particularly targeted by the Taliban, including the distribution of leaflets with serious threats against students, intimidation of female teachers, attacks on school personnel for not complying with the Taliban’s demand to close schools, and attacks on students on their way to school. At least 469 Afghan schools remained closed because of insecurity.

At least 10 health-care personnel were killed and 14 were abducted. Health facilities continued to be attacked directly or as collateral damage. A total of 38 verified incidents were attributed to armed groups, including 13 to the Taliban, and 4 to the Afghan national security forces, including forced entries into health facilities in search of alleged armed group elements.

The United Nations verified 11 cases of military use of schools by the Taliban (3), Afghan National Army (3), the local police (3), the national police (1), and other Afghan national security forces units (1), as well as 3 incidents of military use of hospitals by the national police and the Taliban.

Twenty-four boys and two girls were abducted in 17 separate incidents, resulting in the killing of at least four boys by the Taliban, the rape of two girls by the local police, and the rape of a boy by a pro-Government militia. Overall, the Taliban abducted 15 boys, accusing them of being Government spies.

The United Nations verified 72 of 83 reported incidents affecting humanitarian access to children. There were 125 abductions of humanitarian personnel, the killing and injuring of 41, and 9 attacks on humanitarian convoys, including 2 United Nations convoys. Armed groups, notably the Taliban, were responsible for 85 per cent of all verified incidents, including intimidation of humanitarian personnel.

In a welcome development, in July, the Government officially endorsed a road map for compliance with the action plan to end and prevent child recruitment into its security forces. Significant progress was made on three of five priority actions, in particular the adoption of a presidential decree criminalizing child recruitment by Government security forces, which came into effect on 2 February 2015. Furthermore, the Ministry of the Interior issued and disseminated a directive prohibiting the use of children at national police and local police checkpoints, including in support roles, stating that the perpetrators would be sanctioned. Efforts also continued to strengthen age assessment procedures and disseminate guidance to recruitment units.

Despite the progress achieved, significant efforts are needed by all actors to fully implement the action plan. The lack of services for children rejected from recruitment or released from active service remained a significant concern. Moreover, I urge the Government of Afghanistan to address widespread impunity for violations of children’s rights, particularly within the national police and local police, and investigate the allegations of torture. I condemn the grave violations committed against children by armed groups, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Islami and urge them to immediately end all grave violations against children

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.