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Afghan War Kills 3 Children a Day: Report

Lynne O'Donnell

Afghan children watch a US soldier in the mountains of Nuristan Province, December 19. Children are the biggest victims of the war in Afghanistan, with more than 1,050 people under 18 years old killed last year alone, according to an Afghan human rights watchdog. (AFP/File/Tauseef Mustafa)

KABUL - Children are the biggest victims of the war in Afghanistan,
with more than 1,050 people under 18 years old killed last year alone,
according to an Afghan human rights watchdog.

militants caused around 64 per cent of all violent child deaths last
year, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) said in a report.

were also press-ganged, sexually exploited, deprived of health and
education, and illegally detained by all sides in a war that is
dragging into its ninth year since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the
Taliban regime.

"At least three children were killed in
war-related incidents every day in 2009 and many others suffered in
diverse but mostly unreported ways," ARM director Ajmal Samadi said.

died in suicide attacks and roadside bombings - at the crux of the
Taliban's arsenal against U.S., NATO and Afghan troops fighting the
increasingly virulent insurgency as it spreads across the impoverished

The Taliban "reportedly caused more harm and
intentionally abused more children for illegal purposes than
pro-government Afghan and international forces," the report said.

a horrible anti-education policy of heinous attacks, intimidation and
terror the insurgents deprived hundreds of thousands of children, boys
and girls, from education mostly in the insecure south and east of the

On the other hand, the Western-backed government
has failed to introduce or implement laws to protect children against
the abuses of war or "bring alleged criminals and abusers to justice,"
Samadi said.

ARM called on the Afghan authorities to set
up an official child protection body and liaise with the warring
parties on child rights.

The report by ARM, an independent
rights monitoring group set up in Kabul in 2008, comes after the United
Nations said civilian deaths in Afghanistan rose 10.8 per cent in the
first 10 months of 2009, most caused by the Taliban.

United Nations put civilian deaths at 2,038 for that period, up from
1,838 for the same period of 2008, with the vast majority killed by

It said 468 deaths were caused by pro-government forces, including NATO and U.S.-led forces, and 166 by "other actors."

released the report as a suspected roadside bomb attack killed four
children and wounded more than a dozen in volatile eastern Nangahar

Reports that foreign forces killed eight
students in Kunar province on December 26 caused widespread outrage,
including U.S. flag-burning demonstrations in two cities, though
reports of what happened varied widely.

A government
investigation found the teenagers were unarmed and killed in cold
blood, while Western military sources said the group were armed, opened
fire at foreign and Afghan forces, and were killed in self-defence.

deaths at the hands of foreign forces fuel distrust between the Afghan
population, the government and U.S. and NATO troops, even though most
are caused by insurgent tactics such as homemade bombs.

Taliban regularly exploit deaths caused by foreign and Afghan forces,
and Western military intelligence officials say the militants have
gained the upper hand in a sophisticated propaganda war.

leaders, based largely in Pakistan, rarely claim responsibility for
operations that kill large numbers of civilians but routinely
exaggerate losses among foreign forces.

The United States
and NATO are boosting their troop numbers in Afghanistan to 150,000
over the course of 2010, as part of a new strategy determined to clear
and secure insurgent strongholds.

U.S. General Stanley
McChrystal, commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, has ordered
civilian casualties be kept to a minimum, yet as more troops pour in, a
higher death rate is inevitable, experts say.


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