Our op-ed in ABC News: Combating Child Soldiering

ABC News published an op-ed by three of our board members, Michael “Mick” Mulroy, Eric Oehlerich, and Sasha Lezhnev. Excerpts are below – read the full piece here.

Analysis: How the US can combat the soldiering of children


(NEW YORK) — Stopping the use of child soldiers must be prioritized by the international community.  Children are among the most vulnerable groups in society while warfare is the most dangerous of all human endeavors.

The use of child soldiers is growing. As military-grade weapons get lighter and more lethal, children can often do as much damage as adults. Children are also cheaper to feed and keep healthy and  more likely to do or believe what adults tell them without question.

The United Nations, the U.S. Congress, and others have passed many protocols and laws to stop the use of children as soldiers. More can be done than passing pass laws and giving speeches, and it is imperative to hold those accountable who use or profit from the use of child soldiers is an international responsibility — whether enemies, allies or simply unscrupulous individuals. …

Human Rights

USAID and other aid groups should learn from the lessons of programs to help former child soldiers. Projects to sustainably reintegrate ex-child soldiers back into their communities, such as small business development that helps both ex-combatants and communities, must be prioritized over short-term insertion packages. While often neglected, trauma counseling should be prioritized in programming, including long-term support since the intense psychological scars that child soldiers endure do not disappear quickly.

Michael “Mick” Patrick Mulroy is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, a retired Paramilitary Operations Officer in the CIA’s Special Activities Center, and a retired U.S. Marine. He is the co-director of the Yemen Steering Initiative and a Senior Fellow for National Security and Defense Policy with the Middle East Institute, an Analyst for ABC News, on the board of directors for Grassroots Reconciliation Group, End Child Soldiering Co-Founder, and the Lobo Institute’s Co-founder, which address the issue of child soldiering Grassroots Reconciliation Group, End Child Soldiering’s Co-founder, and the Lobo Institute’s Co-founder.

Eric Oehlerich is a retired U.S. Navy Commander (SEAL) from the Naval Special Warfare component of the USSOCOM’s Joint Special Operations Command. He is a Senior Fellow for Technology and National Security with the Middle East Institute, an Analyst for ABC News, on the board of directors for Grassroots Reconciliation Group, End Child Soldiering Co-founder, and the Lobo Institute’s Co-founder.

Sasha Lezhnev is Deputy Director of Policy at The Sentry and Founding Director of the Grassroots Reconciliation Group. He is a founding member of the Public-Private Alliance on Responsible Minerals Trade, and he previously worked at Global Witness, the International Crisis Group, the Northern Uganda Peace Initiative. He is the author of the book Crafting Peace: Strategies to Deal with Warlords in Collapsing States.