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Backing governments who employ child war fighters?

STUTTGART, Germany:  The Obama administration's decision on Monday to waive Yemen, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 — a law then Sen. Barack Obama co-sponsored — raised a few eyebrows among human rights advocates this week.

But the Foreign Policy blog, “The Cable,” obtained a State Department document on the decision to continue with military assistance to these offending countries, giving insight into the administration's rationale for working with these troubled nations. The document offers several justifications for continued engagement with the four countries.

Cutting off support to Yemen would undermine Yemeni special operations and counterterror missions, according to the Obama administration, which has become increasingly concerned about al-Qaeda’s growing presence in the region.

“Yemen is a key partner in counterterrorism operations again al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and cooperation with the Yemeni Government is a vital piece of the U.S. national strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat terrorist organizations by denying them sanctuary in the ungoverned spaces of Yemen’s hinterland,” the State Department reported.

The State Department document reports that efforts are being made to curb the use of teenage soldiers within Yemen’s military.

In Chad, concern about regional terrorism also is an issue. The country is a partner in the U.S. government’s Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership Program and plays a role in supporting humanitarian responses in Darfur.

In Sudan, sanctions already are in place. However, U.S. military assistance is being directed to the government of Southern Sudan, which is slated to hold a referendum on independence in three months.

As for the Congo, ongoing military training programs are intended to help bring about reforms with the Congolese military. Stopping those programs would not help eliminate the problem of child soldiering and would hurt efforts at reform, the document states.

To read the full State Department document on the issue, go here.

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