According to the U.S. State Department, Afghan government forces – including the Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan Local Police (ALP), and National Directorate of Security (NDS) – as well as pro-government militias that receive support from the Afghan government have allegedly recruited and used children in both combat and non-combat roles. Between April 2020 and March 2021, government or government-affiliated armed groups reportedly recruited and used at least 24 children – five by the ALP, four by the ANA, seven by pro-government armed groups, and an additional eight jointly recruited and used by the ALP and pro-government armed groups.
Child soldier use and recruitment has continued even as the Afghan government has undertaken broader child protection efforts, including the formation of a National Child Protection Committee to address bacha bazi, a practice involving the sexual abuse of young boys; hiring additional social workers; and increasing the number of Child Protection Units at ANP recruitment centers. An international organization reported that the Afghan government made notable progress in combatting the recruitment and use of child soldiers through the use of these CPUs despite some NGOs reporting that they were not sufficiently equipped, staffed, or trained. Between April 2020 and March 2021, the Afghan government reported that it prevented the recruitment of more than 5,000 children into government defense and security forces and identified 20 children in its military and referred them to child protection centers. During the same period, the government prosecuted and convicted members of the security services for bacha bazi. While the Afghan government investigated some claims of child soldier recruitment or use by military or police officials, these investigations had not resulted in any prosecutions as of March 2021.
For more information, see the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report and Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. More information on the situation in Afghanistan can also be found in the U.N. Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict and country-specific report on Afghanistan.