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The Importance of Educational and Mental Health Support in Youth DDR Operations

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report,25 Jun 2018,23 May 2019

Corporate Author:

US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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Warfare takes a toll on everyone who experiences it. This toll is especially heavy for children who live through a conflict. Experiencing traumatic events in war increases the chances of child survivors suffering from a variety of psychological disorders. War also disrupts the social network around children which further slows childhood development. The Islamic State IS deliberately recruited, educated, and radicalized thousands of children during their reign of control in portions of Iraq and Syria. Reintegrating the children traumatized and radicalized by IS requires well thought out and resourced youth Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration DDR operations. Not properly reintegrating children traumatized by IS or other conflicts prolongs the time necessary for consolidating gains and undermines national and regional stability. Youth DDR operations in Sierra Leone in 2002 and the Niger River Delta in 2004 and 2009 offer good and bad examples for planning and conducting youth DDR operations in post-conflict Iraq and Syria and beyond. Paramount to the success of youth DDR operations in Iraq and Syria, and in the future, is providing mental health support and reestablishing education systems for traumatized or radicalized children. Not taking a comprehensive approach to reintegrating children lowers the likelihood of successful reintegration and does not address lingering drivers of conflict and instability. Releasing traumatized or radicalized children back into society without ways to improve their lives destabilizes regions and prolongs conflict. Traumatized or radicalized children are more likely targets for later radicalization, spurring instability and increasing the chances of repeated US interventions and deployments to unstable regions. Providing post-conflict mental health and educational support to children by the US military reduces drivers of conflict, supports consolidation of gains, and develops a more lasting peace.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Psychology

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