An 18-year-old YPJ fighter on the frontline in the Tel Hamis region of Syria. Photo by Sophie Cousins, courtesy of USA Today

Child soldiers enlisted to fight against Islamic State in Syria

QAMISHLI, Syria (RNS) A Kurdish boy who looks no older than 11 mans the entrance of a military base in northeastern Syria. His pants drag on the ground and his shirt hangs off his bony shoulders as he stands in an ill-fitting military uniform next to a Kalashnikov automatic rifle. Like many of the child soldiers in local Kurdish forces, he refuses to give his name or provide his age for fear of retribution. The State Department says it has raised concerns about the use of child soldiers, even as the U.S. aids these Kurdish fighters battling against Islamic State militants in Syria through airdrops of weapons and supplies provided by Iraqi authorities. Local authorities pledged this summer to remove all 149 child soldiers from the ranks of the main armed Kurdish force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), but the group’s spokesman, Redur Khalil, admits some remain among its 50,000 troops in the region.