Specifically, the president has waived more than $93.2 million in Direct Commercial Sales, more than $275,000 in Excess Defense Articles, $750 million in Foreign Military Financing, more than $2.3 billion in Foreign Military Sales, and more than $3.9 million in International Military Education and Training. The president has never denied Iraq any arms sales or military assistance due to CSPA prohibitions.
According to the U.S. State Department, Iraqi Security Forces – including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) – and government-supported Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) reportedly recruited, used, or facilitated the recruitment of child soldiers. Since Iraq first appeared on the CSPA list in 2016, there have been consistent reports of PMF units and allied militias recruiting child soldiers, mostly for use in combat. The PMF is an umbrella organization that has operated as a component of Iraq’s armed forces since 2016. It is comprised of various militia groups, many of which have resisted attempts by the Iraqi government to subject them to more complete government control. In 2017 and 2019, militias with units that operate under the PMF but which generally operate outside the command and control of the Iraqi government – including Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Kata’ib Hizbullah (KH), and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nuijaba (HHN) – also reportedly recruited and used child soldiers, including to fight in Syria and Yemen. In addition, the Yezidi armed militia group Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) forcibly recruited and used children in combat and support roles in 2016 while the Iraqi government was reportedly paying its salaries. There were also reports in 2016 of Iraqi Security Forces facilitating the recruitment of at least seven children by PMF-affiliated militias from an internally displaced persons camp. Despite these allegations, Iraq was removed from the CSPA list in 2017, though it was added again the following year.
The Iraqi government has taken some steps to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers by government and government-backed forces. Since 2015, it has reportedly continued to provide training to military officers on child soldier issues. Additionally, starting in 2016, the government stopped paying the salaries of child volunteers in efforts to discourage PMF commanders from accepting children who volunteer to fight for the group. The following year, the government established a national inter-ministerial senior committee to monitor, evaluate, and report on children’s rights violations in conflict zones in Iraq. Among other things, this committee is working to develop a national action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the country.
However, these efforts have been undermined by the Iraqi government’s lack of control over PMF and affiliated forces, and the government’s failure to adequately investigate and prosecute continued allegations of child soldier recruitment and use by these groups. In 2015, the government struggled to exercise full control over all of the PMF factions, which severely limited its ability to prevent these groups from recruiting and using child soldiers. The government sought to address this issue in 2016 when it formalized the PMF’s status as a component of the Iraqi armed forces, but by 2019, the government still lacked complete control of the PMF and units continued to undertake operations independent of political or military leadership. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has repeatedly failed to adequately investigate and hold people criminally accountable for child soldiering offenses despite years of allegations against the PMF and affiliated groups. There remained significant concerns of alleged official complicity in trafficking crimes following reports in 2018 that key Iraqi security officials shielded traffickers from investigation and prosecution.
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 Iraq can also be found in the U.N. Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict’s annual report and country-specific report on Iraq.