Child Soldiers Waiver Angers Human Rights Groups

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A war of words is underway in the halls of government in Washington, D.C., over how to best discourage countries from using children as soldiers. 

Human rights groups estimate that a quarter of a million children - some as young as 7 years old - are involved in armed conflicts around the world. 
    
Currently at issue is a waiver by the Obama administration exempting four countries who use child combatants from U.S. penalties.  Those penalties are mandated by the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act.  They involve cutting off military aid to encourage countries to stop using children as soldiers.

"It is in the national interest of the United States" to waive application of the law to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen," President Obama said in a memorandum to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Outraged human rights and non-profit organizations are protesting the White House's decision.

"This is a ground breaking law," Jo Becker, children's rights director at Human Rights Watch, said. "This is the first year it has taken effect and he's undercutting it."

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley defended the move, saying the waiver recipients needed additional time to reform their practices.

"In each of these countries we are working with the governments to stop the recruitment of child soldiers or demobilize those who may already be in the ranks," Crowley said. "These countries have put the right policies in place but are struggling to effectively implement them. These waivers allow the United States to continue to conduct valuable training programs."

Jesse Eaves, advisor on child protection for World Vision, talked more about the issue of child soldiers on the Nov. 17 of CBN News Channel's Morning News. Click play to watch the interview.

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