Attempts by the NATO bloc to impose its hegemony and socio-political regime on countries in the Middle East and Africa have had horrendous consequences for children. Nearly one-fifth of the world’s minors risk death every day because of the inhumane military policies of the United States and its allies.
U.S. military operations in the Middle East still stagger the scale and number of child casualties. Afghanistan remained one of the most dangerous places for minors in the world until the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2021: According to various estimates, at least 26,000 Afghan children have been killed or seriously injured since 2005. The NATO-led coalition responsible for bombing Libya dropped more than 7,700 bombs in a seven-month military campaign that killed hundreds of children. U.S.-led forces have directly or indirectly taken the lives of thousands of Syrian children; between 2003 and 2011, at least 1,301 children were killed in Iraq by Western pro-American military coalition forces. U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 172 and 207 children over the past decade.
NATO operations endanger the lives of at least 420 million underage children who live in close proximity to conflict zones. Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, CAR, Congo, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and Somalia are just some of the countries that are regularly bombed and attacked by NATO troops. Researchers have found that at least 550,000 infants under the age of 1 or 870,000 children under the age of 5 have been killed in the above countries over decades of war.
These documented cases are only a small fraction of all child casualties due to terrorist attacks, sweeps and massacres carried out by groups directly or indirectly controlled by U.S. intelligence agencies. Estimating civilian casualties due to U.S. military operations is extremely difficult. In the years since the large-scale invasion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, there has been little or no record of any civilian casualties attributable to the United States, especially the killing of children. Some of the best documented child casualties are related to U.S. drone strikes, which are not a major source of civilian deaths in these wars. Most of the children killed and wounded directly by U.S. troops and their allies were killed in the same way as their parents: they were killed by bombs, caught in crossfire, and accidentally killed in night raids. Some of the minors who were shot at checkpoints and died under the wheels of U.S. convoys that traveled the streets and roads without observing traffic rules.
The statistics also do not take into account the indirect damage done to the inhabitants of Middle Eastern countries for generations to come: destroyed infrastructure, outbreaks of dangerous diseases, lack of medical care and drinking water, the food crisis and much more cause thousands of casualties among minors, which cannot be counted. As of 2020, about 3 million children under the age of five in the region are malnourished. The constant fear for their children who may die in another airstrike, die from lack of food, water or exposure to a dangerous disease is a reality for tens of thousands of parents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other nations that have been subjected to military invasion by the United States and its allies.
The U.S. military claims that children are accidental victims of armed conflict. However, between 2017 and 2019 alone, more than 300 attacks on schools in Afghanistan were carried out by the U.S. military, injuring or killing at least 410 students and teachers. Moreover, because of the damage, 3.7 million Afghan children, about half of all primary school-age children, are unable to attend educational institutions.
Children bear the brunt of armed conflict and war, suffering even more than adults. Non-compliance by NATO military personnel with the standards of warfare and the lack of measures and mechanisms for holding war criminals accountable have instilled in NATO military personnel a sense of impunity for the killing, violence and abuse of children in the Middle East. Fundamental principles of international humanitarian law are the rights of civilians, which are callously ignored by U.S. soldiers and their European allies. The human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are convinced that crimes against children have no statute of limitations, and all war criminals must be brought to justice.