US has added Pakistan in the list of countries under Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) which prohibits the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Pakistan has baulked against the US adding Pakistan in a list of 14 countries under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act which identifies foreign governments having government-supported armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers. The countries now listed by the US State Department are Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) requires publication in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report a list of foreign governments that have recruited or used child soldiers during the previous year (April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021).
Child Soldiers includes any person below 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities or who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other services. It also means any person below 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces or any person below 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state. It also includes any such person who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role, such as a "cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard or sex slave."
The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) requires publication in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report a list of foreign governments that have recruited or used child soldiers during the previous year
The determination to include a government in the CSPA list is informed by a range of sources, including first-hand observation by the US government personnel and research and credible reporting from various UN entities, international organisations, local and international NGOs, and international & domestic media outlets. The CSPA prohibits assistance to governments that are identified in the list under the following authorities - International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defence Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations, with exceptions for some programmes undertaken pursuant to the Peacekeeping Operations authority. It also prohibits the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments. These restrictions will apply to Pakistan and the listed countries from October 1, 2021 and throughout fiscal year 2022 unless there is a presidential waiver by the US President, applicable exception or reinstatement of assistance pursuant to the terms of the CSPA.
General Lloyd J. Austin had told the US Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing for the post of US Secretary of Defence in January 2021 that the Biden administration sees Pakistan as an “essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan. If confirmed, I will encourage a regional support from neighbours like Pakistan, while also deterring regional actors, from serving as spoilers to the Afghanistan peace process. Pakistan media prominently highlighted Austin stating he believed that “continuing to build relationship with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues.”
Having been placed on the CSPA list, Pakistan has responded by saying it had been voluntarily submitting information for the TIP Report to the US Government since 2007 and has actively worked on implementing the practicable recommendations of these reports. Pakistan’s foreign office said that the inclusion of Pakistan in the "CSPA List" depicts a factual error and lack of understanding because no State institution was consulted by the US prior to the publication of the report and no details have been provided of the basis on which the conclusion was reached.
Pakistan fails to understand that with US troops exiting Afghanistan, America will no longer overlook the generation of terrorism and recruitment of child soldiers by Pakistan
Pakistan’s foreign office also said, “We categorically reject the unsubstantiated and baseless inclusion of Pakistan in the ‘Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) List’." It asked the US to share "credible information" on cases involving Trafficking in Persons as well as on allegations pertaining to support to armed groups using child soldiers. Pakistan has called upon the authorities concerned in the US to review the baseless assertions made in the TIP Report, especially with regard to the unwarranted inclusion of Pakistan in the "CSPA List."
But then Pakistan exposed the lies itself by saying that Pakistan does not support any non-state armed group nor any entity recruiting or using child soldiers and that Pakistan's efforts in fighting non-state armed groups including terrorist entities are well recognised. Pakistan fails to understand that with US troops exiting Afghanistan, America will no longer overlook the generation of terrorism and recruitment of child soldiers by Pakistan.
How the military-to-military relationship between the US and Pakistan will continue in future and how both militaries will cooperate only time will tell but one thing appears certain that Pakistan will continue to remain on the US State Department’s CSPA list even though it is revised annually.