The U.S. government is barred by a 2008 act from providing military assistance to governments that use child soldiers. Human Rights Watch said this week, however, U.S. President Barack Obama waived the measure so as to provide military aid to Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen.
"Countries that keep using child soldiers aren't going to get serious about ending the practice until they see the U.S. is serious about withholding the money," said Jo Becker, child rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. "These military aid waivers show a lack of leadership and a disregard for U.S. law."
Obama, in a presidential memorandum, said Chad had taken steps to address the use of child soldiers. In terms of aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to Yemen, Obama said it was in the national interest to continue providing military assistance to those countries.
Human Rights Watch noted, however, that the Obama administration was holding back some aid to the DRC until the government there meets certain benchmarks.
"The conditions for Congo are a positive step but other countries with child soldiers are getting taxpayer money with no strings attached," said Becker. "The administration should suspend military assistance until these countries make real progress."