Investigators for the United Nations found 48 child soldiers in Afghanistan last year, with more than half working for government-backed forces such as the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Local and National Police. But that news somehow never made an impact in Washington.

In an annual report released on June 30 that names 10 foreign countries known to use and recruit child soldiers, the U.S. State Department didn’t include Afghanistan — a country with forces labeled as “persistent perpetrators” by the U.N. in a report issued just two months earlier.


The discrepancy is partly a matter of legal interpretation but mostly one mired in international politics, it turns out.

Countries that employ child soldiers in their armed forces are barred from receiving specific types of U.S. military assistance or weapons, under a U.S. law enacted in 2008. But President Barack Obama’s administration says Afghanistan is not subject to the law because its Local Police force — which uses child soldiers and experts say operates like a militia or paramilitary group — is not part of the armed forces.

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