As US-backed government forces in Somalia fight Insurgent groups linked to al-Qaeda, children are doing battle with children. While it is well known that most rebel troops are children, a New York Times expose reveals that the Somali army—whose soldiers are paid in part by the US government and trained by American military advisers—also relies on soldiers as young as nine.
US officials said they are concerned about use of child soldiers but "don't have a good answer" for how to guarantee that American taxpayer dollars are not used to arm children. Children have few options in Somalia, where the school system has collapsed and many have been orphaned or abandoned, leaving them easy targets for military recruitment. A Somali defense minister said many of the children who get internationally funded training then defect to the rebel forces.