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Govt issues guidelines to end child recruitment

By Mansoor Faizy-KABUL: To prevent and respond to child recruitment in the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF), and to improve age-verification mechanism, the government has officially launched age assessment guidelines at a high level meeting in Kabul held the other day.

Government officials, with the technical assistance of UNAMA and UNICEF, have prepared the age assessment guidelines. The guidelines were designed to be applied during any recruitment process into the Afghan security forces.

At the meeting, participants addressed the progress made on the implementation of the government’s action plan related to de-listing the Afghan National Police for child recruitment within the annexes of the UN Secretary General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict.

“The Afghan government is committed to aligning with the provisions of international human rights instruments, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Hekmat Karzai, Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Hekmat Karzai, who chaired the meeting, said that with the support of UNAMA and UNICEF, the Afghan government has made notable progress on the development of a law criminalizing the underage recruitment.

The UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, also spoke at the meeting, calling the guidelines a significant achievement for the government of Afghanistan in making progress toward its commitments, and noting that the number of verified cases of child recruitment remained relatively low during 2015.

“The guidelines are uniquely Afghan in that preparations came from within the Ministry of Interior and other concerned ministries, supported by UNICEF and UNAMA,” said Mr. Bowden, who reaffirmed technical support and assistance to the government to ensure the full implementation of the Action Plan.

Speaking at the meeting the UNICEF’s Country Representative in Afghanistan, Akhil Iyer, stressed on the importance of implementing the guidelines in conjunction with the expansion of child protection units (CPUs) at the Afghan National Police recruitment centers across all 34 provinces. He offered UNICEF’s support in further expanding the CPUs.

This comes at a time when an 11-year-old Afghan boy, Wasil Khan, was shot dead by the Taliban insurgents in southern Uruzgan province last week. He fought Taliban fighters for nearly 43 days in Khas Uruzgan district after his uncle, a local police commander, was injured. The little boy led around 70 fighters of his uncle and killed 96 Taliban insurgents during fighting.

Taliban in a media statement confirmed that their fighters killed Wasil Khan in Uruzgan province. The incident was widely condemned in Afghanistan, after local and international media published several stories on his assassination.

The government said that the assassinated boy was not enrolled in police rank, officially. But the country’s rights activists criticized the government and said that he was killed by insurgents because he fought against them in the battlefield.

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