Cablegate: Accusations Regarding Child Soldiers in Department

DE RUEHBUL #3559/01 3091024
P 051024Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 92560

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Department of Labor (DOL) &2008
Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor8 (reftel)
incorrectly identifies Afghanistan as a country recruiting
children into its armed forces. The report's introduction
suggests that a central economic issue for Afghanistan is
that the GIROA actively militarizes its youths. But this view
seriously mischaracterizes both the source and depth of the
country's economic situation, and the armed forces efforts in
adopting careful vetting practices. Although anecdotal
evidence suggests that insurgent recruitment of children is
on the rise, to suggest that the GIROA is primarily at fault
in this situation is misleading and does little to advance
human rights. Post requests a retraction of this year's
remarks and will work to change next year's DOL report to
more accurately characterize Afghanistan's labor situation.
End Summary.

2. (U) On September 10, 2009, the Department of Labor (DOL)
released its &2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child
Labor.8 Embassy Kabul is concerned by two sentences in the
report's introduction. DOL cites Afghanistan twice regarding
the recruitment of children into the armed forces: &In
Afghanistan, there was increasing evidence of children being
recruited into both state and non-state armed forces, though
the prevalence of the occurrence was unclear8 (page xxiii).
And: &Countries whose national armies continue to recruit
children, such as the Central African Republic, Chad, and
Afghanistan, have demonstrated a lack of commitment to
address the most grievous forms of child labor8 (page
xxxiv). These sentences contradict our human rights reporting
on the subject of child soldiers, and present, we believe, a
distorted picture of the situation in Afghanistan by
suggesting that the GIROA militarizes its youth by recruiting
youth into the armed forces. Further, raising concerns with
GIROA about possible child soldiers may distract GIROA energy
and attention from the more pressing issues of child labor,
include child sexual exploitation.

3. (SBU) Child and forced labor in Afghanistan is a
significant and dramatically obvious problem. Insufficient
employment options for youth and the lack of sustainable
income-generating activities for older men and women, who
must rely on youth to assist in feeding and sheltering their
families, are key problems. Economic conditions probably do
compel underage boys and sometimes girls to seek work in the
armed forces. But such a likelihood is distinct from the
assertion that the armed forces recruit underage soldiers.
(NOTE: Fewer than 10 percent of children are registered at
birth; thus accurate birth age is typically difficult to
prove. END NOTE.)

4. (U) Insurgent recruitment of underage soldiers is widely
reported and, based on anecdotal evidence, appears to be on
the rise. But national armed forces recruitment of children
is much harder to substantiate; we have thus far been unable
to verify the allegations of deliberate child recruitment by
national forces.

5. (U) Though the DOL's rules permit them to use sources up
to seven years old, we believe that sources from within two
years do not support such assertions. Furthermore, the
presence of child soldiers in Afghanistan is hardly
comparable to countries with famously-egregious records of
child soldiering. A recently-released RAND report titled
&The Long March: Building An Afghan National Army,8 states
"the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan
(CSTC-A) confirmed that recruiting young soldiers to the ANA
has not been a major problem" (page 15) despite the high
numbers the ANA needs to meet their recruitment targets. Our
POL-MIL office asserts that the ANA vetting procedures are
reputable. Our ISAF office points out that CSTC-A, which
trains armed forces, verifies both ANA and ANP recruiting and
vetting procedures.

6. (SBU) Embassy Kabul welcomes DOL's efforts to monitor
child labor and forced labor conditions in the countries and
goods on the TVPRA List, but believes that this report
mischaracterizes the economic and military situation in
country by grouping Afghanistan with countries known for
their active reliance on child soldiers.

7. (SBU) CSCT-A does due diligence to ensure ANA and ANP
compliance with recruitment and vetting procedures, but given
fundamental weaknesses in Afghan birth registry systems and
the difficulty in verifying the age of recruits, Embassy
Kabul cannot assert that no child soldier exists within the
ANA or ANP. Embassy Kabul further acknowledges that there may
be problems of which we are unaware with the recruiting and
vetting practices for the relatively undefined civilian

KABUL 00003559 002 OF 002

militias. Militias sponsored by GIROA may not be as tightly
monitored as the ANA and ANP.

8. (SBU) However, we are confident that the ANA and its
subsets, including the Afghan National Army Air Corps
(ANAAC), and the ANP and its subsets including the Afghan
Border Police, Customs Police, Afghan Uniform Police (AUP),
Afghan National Civil Order of Police (ANCOP), Afghan Public
Protection Force (APPF), Counter-Narcotics Unit, Anti-Crime
Unit, and the Afghan Police Protection Program (AP3) have
robust recruiting and vetting practices in place against
child soldiers.

9. (U) We do not agree with the DOL's assessment regarding
GIROA recruitment of child soldiers. We recognize that the
ANA, working in concert with CSTC-A, actively vets recruits
and rejects underage applicants. Therefore:

A. We request and will work for a retraction of this year's
DOL summary comments.

B. We will work to change next year's DOL report to more
accurately characterize Afghanistan's labor situation.


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