July 23, 2005

Taliban resorting to child recruits

U.S. Gen.: Taliban Recruiting Children (link)
By DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan - Fierce fighting in recent months has devastated the ranks of the Taliban, prompting the rebels to recruit children and force some families to provide one son to fight with them, a U.S. commander said Saturday.

The fighting has fractured the Taliban's command structure, preventing the militants from regrouping, even though there has been an upsurge in violence, Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, the U.S. military operational commander in Afghanistan, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Despite the setback — more than 500 rebels have been killed since March — the militants are likely to step up attacks in the lead-up to crucial Sept. 18 legislative elections, he said.

"The Taliban and al-Qaida feel that this is their final chance to impede Afghanistan's progress to ... becoming a nation," Kamiya said. "They will challenge us all the way through Sept. 18."

He said the rebels were desperately trying to recruit new fighters to replace those killed recently, and has even forced families in some areas "to give up one son to fight."

"They have been hit so hard they now have to recruit more fighters. They are recruiting younger and younger fighters: 14, 15 and 16 years-old," Kamiya said. "The enemy is having a hard time keeping its recruit rates up."

While the rebels have long been thought to have children in their ranks, there have been few reports of wide-scale child recruiting by the Taliban — especially of those as young as 14.

Kamiya's comments come two days after the United Nations said that the majority of an estimated 8,000 child soldiers in Afghanistan — mostly in the ranks of private militias now allied to the government — would have been demobilized and enrolled in education programs by the end of this year.

The effort has focused largely on areas outside the country's southern and eastern regions, where the Taliban are strongest.

Afghan officials repeatedly have said that many of the Taliban's fighters come from Islamic boarding schools, or madrassas, in Pakistan. But Kamiya said the Taliban was now getting most of its fresh recruits from inside Afghanistan.

Posted by Kyer at July 23, 2005 05:50 PM | TrackBack

Sounds like Berlin in the last days, huh?

Posted by: patrickafir at July 25, 2005 06:42 AM

Excellent point.

I remember watching a series/program on the History Channel a few weeks ago called "Last Days..." of WWII. One episode focused on the last days of Berlin and how the Hitler Youth were thrown into the fray to defend the last front in Berlin.

If only it were true that we were approaching the last Taliban front in Afghanistan...

Posted by: kyer at July 25, 2005 10:50 AM