Many of the Taliban's child recruits were tricked or coerced into carrying out acts of terror, according to a report by British newspaper The Guardian. It is one way the Taliban has tried to respond to NATO's intensified anti-terror campaign.
One such recruit, 14-year-old Noor Mohammad, personifies the coercion that the group uses on children. Accused of stealing cell phones during a wedding party in his village, Muhammad was given a harsh choice - "either they would cut off his hand for stealing or he could redeem himself and bring glory on his family by becoming a suicide bomber."
"They are relying more and more on children," said Nader Nadery, a member of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission. "When somebody runs out of one tool they go to use the second one." While many children are the victims of ideological brainwashing at "hate madrassas," others like Mohammad are coerced through threats and violence.
After agreeing to carry out an assault on the American military base in nearby Ghazni, Mohammad was given lessons on how to use a handgun. As part of the suicide attack, he was fitted with an explosive vest, photographed for martyrdom propaganda, and sent on his way.
Mohammad however, questioned carrying out the attack, which he believed was a "sin." He removed his vest and surrendered to guards, leading American forces to the village Taliban who recruited him. In the shootout that followed, two Taliban handlers were killed, making it impossible for the boy to return home. He is being held in a children's prison while awaiting trial.
Glorification of suicide bombing has had a serious psychological impact on a generation of Afghani and Pakistani children. A 2007 Taliban video showed a young boy beheading an accused American spy, while another video from the same year showed militant Pakistan mothers pledging their babies as suicide bombers.
In late February of this year, a video of children reenacting a suicide bombing circulated through Pakistani websites. The unsettling clip, which shows a child hugging his "comrades" before carrying out a mock suicide bombing, underscores the rise of a culture of violence.
Pakistani reactions to the video were mixed. "It's horrifying and alarming." said Salma Jafar of Save the Children UK in Pakistan. "If they glamorise violence now, they can become part of it later in life." Ahsan Masood, a Pashtun from Waziristan who posted the video to his Facebook page, claimed to receive it through his cell phone. "I thought it was funny," he said.