In one of his administration’s lesser-known but potentially more controversial policies, President Barack Obama has set aside the Bush-era ban on providing aide to countries whose militaries employ child soldiers.
The waiver was issued by the White House on Monday. Obama initially waived the ban in 2010, the first year it was to go into effect. When he was a U.S. Senator, Obama supported the law which he has repeatedly waived as president.
President George W. Bush signed the Child Soldier Prevention Act in 2008.
The waiver is not total. The latest version applies only to the countries of Chad, South Sudan and Yemen.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo received a partial waiver, as did Somalia. The waivers for those two countries allow only for the shipment on “nonlethal” defense assistance.
In February of this year, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report urging Obama to change his mind. But the latest waiver indicates that the president is sticking to his policy of trying to change the behavior of those governments by engaging with them, rather than punishing them.
"Our judgment was: Brand them, name them, shame them, and then try to leverage assistance in a fashion to make this work," Samantha Power, then a National Security Council official, said at the time the first waiver was issued. "Our judgment is we'll work from inside the tent."
Powers now serves as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"The basic problem here is that the administration is taking an all-or-nothing approach. There's no doubt that the administration has legitimate interests in these countries,” said Jo Becker of the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, in 2010. “But they should have sought a middle ground that allows them to take the law seriously while still taking our cooperation with these countries seriously.”
In 2010, the administration issued a memo stating its rationale for waiving the ban. The reason that the DRC got its waiver was that sanctions, the memo said, would, “jeopardize the United States' opportunity to positively affect the negative behavior patterns currently exhibited by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
SOURCES: Washington Examiner, Foreign Policy (2), White House, ABC News