For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. will not be issuing any full waivers to partner nations found to be in violation of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008.
The decision, announced Oct. 3 in a memorandum from the Biden Administration, confirmed that seven of the 12 countries flagged for using child soldiers in their defense forces in 2022 will not receive certain types of military funding until the issue is resolved.
Initiated during the George W. Bush presidency, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 restricts government military funding to countries that use or recruit child soldiers. In 2020, the United Nations reported more than 8,000 children were actively being used in combative conflicts across the globe, although most were not forced into military service by state actors.
Language within the CSPA states that military aid for equipment, foreign military financing, international military education and training and peacekeeping operations can be withheld if countries are in violation of the law.
It has become common practice for the president, however, to grant full or partial waivers in the name of supporting U.S. national security interests.
For the next fiscal year, the U.S. will still provide select funding to Somalia, Yemen, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo by partially waiving provisions within the CSPA.
Both the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will still receive funds for peacekeeping operations and international military training, President Biden’s memo revealed.
While Somalia and Yemen will also receive funding for the same missions, both countries were also granted a waiver in line with 10 U.S. Code § 333, a legal authorization that allows the U.S. to support programs of foreign defense agencies specifically tasked with counterterrorism missions, combating illicit drug and weapons trades and international coalition missions that affect U.S. national security interests.
Although the U.S. officially ended its support of a Saudi-led coalition fighting for the exiled Yemeni government, U.S. troops at Al Dhafra Air Base in the neighboring United Arab Emirates have become targets for Houthi extremists in recent years. In late January, U.S. troops were forced to seek shelter after an attack from Houthi rebels targeted the United Arab Emirates during a visit by Israel’s president.
“In the early morning of Jan. 31, U.S. military personnel responded to an inbound missile threat at Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said of the attack. “This involved personnel taking shelter in bunkers and the employment of Patriot interceptors coincident to efforts by the armed forces of the UAE.”
In Somalia, the U.S. is still actively launching strikes against al-Shabab, an Islamic terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda. Troops have also returned to in-country operations in Somalia following President Biden’s reversal of the Trump Administration’s troop withdrawal in January 2021.
Waivers were also granted to allow for licenses for direct sales related to the U.S. government’s assistance of the aforementioned countries — and Russia — “solely for direct commercial sales in connection with the International Space Station,” the memo stated.
This is the first year since the CSPA’s passing that Russia was found to be in violation of the Act, the Stimson Center for international research noted.
Biden’s Oct. 3 CSPA decision is unique in that it marks a record number of countries receiving no waivers. But despite this move, according to reporting by Human Rights Watch, more than $230 million in U.S.-issued military funding will still go to countries with child soldiers over the next fiscal year.
The seven countries violating the CSPA that were not granted waivers this year are Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, Syria and Venezuela, the Stimson Center showed.
Since the law’s passing, the U.S. has allowed more than $7.2 billion in arms sales and military assistance to go to countries using child soldiers.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.