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HRW denounces Taliban use of child soldiers

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former Afghan Taliban fighters carry their weapons before handing them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on January 12, 2016. (AFP photo)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly denounced the Taliban militant group for recruiting children and young boys to its ranks for militant activities across Afghanistan.

In a detailed report on Wednesday, the New York-based group said the Taliban have been training and deploying child soldiers to combat since the middle of 2015 due to expanded militant operations against Afghan government forces.

It added that the militant group has recruited children as young as six years old to eventually be deployed to combat missions.

The report noted that Taliban have used special centers to provide military training to children between the ages of 13 and 17 in the northern province of Kunduz over the past months. The militant group had briefly overrun the provincial capital of Kunduz during its offensive in September last year.

The findings are based on interviews the rights group conducted with relatives of children recruited as Taliban soldiers during the past year.

HRW says it has verified these claims through interviews with political analysts, civil society activists and the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Patricia Gossman, senior HRW Afghanistan researcher, has described the Taliban’s strategy to throw increasing numbers of children into battle as brutal.

"The Taliban's apparent strategy to throw increasing numbers of children into battle is as cynical and cruel as it is unlawful," Gossman said, adding, “Afghan children should be at school and at home with their parents, not exploited as cannon fodder for the Taliban insurgency.”

The international rights group has demanded that the Taliban militants immediately put an end to the illegal use of child soldiers.

“The Taliban’s increasing use of children as soldiers only adds to the horrors of Afghanistan’s long conflict both for the children and their families. The Taliban should immediately stop recruiting children and release all children in their ranks, even those who claim to have joined willingly,” she noted.

Internally-displaced Afghan children watch a girl jump with a skip rope at a camp in Ghazni on February 11, 2015. (AFP photo)

This comes as Afghan forces have been engaged in military operations across the country to end the Taliban-led militancy and violence. 

Afghanistan is gripped by insecurity over 14 years after the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The 2001 attack overthrew the Taliban, but many areas across Afghanistan still face violence and insecurity.

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