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Black Flags of Their Fathers: The Islamic States Returning Foreign Fighter Youths and the Implications for U.S. Domestic Security

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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The Islamic States strategic resources are dissolving as fast as they once appeared. The fear is that, as the Islamic State deteriorates, it will expand its operations outside the region through the use of returning foreign fighters. Evidence suggests that Islamic State children are subject to indoctrination and training that give them the tools to plan, organize, and execute terrorist attacks. These children also have the motive, means, and opportunity to attack the West while in the West. This thesis contains both quantitative and qualitative analyses that help assess the dangers that Islamic State returning foreign fighter youths pose to the domestic security of the United States. Three significant findings emerged out of this work. First, avenues exist for youth fighters indoctrinated and socialized by the Islamic State to plan, conduct, and execute terrorist operations in the United States. Second, youth fighters of the Islamic State share similarities with the child soldiers of other armed groups that influence whether they will have the propensity to engage in future terrorist attacks. Lastly, U.S. policies are geared toward addressing the humanitarian crisis that emerges out of the use of child soldiers, yet we treat the child soldiers of terrorist organizations like criminals. These findings have long-lasting implications for U.S. domestic security.

Subject Categories:

  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Government and Political Science

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