In February 2015, the world was rocked when it heard news of how three British school girls ran away from their families and flew to Turkey to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Sixteen-year-olds Shamima Begum, Amira Abase, and Kadiza Sultana cross Turkey to fly into Syria and join the ISIS.
ISIS, a jihadist extremist militant group which has been gaining media attention for their brutal deeds, has expanded their control over several Middle East countries, including not only Iraq and Syria but Afghanistan as well. Now how exactly does a militant group convince young people to join the armed struggle?
Toy guns that can fire pellets are popular among Afghan youth.
According to Fahima Amini from the Chapman University School of Law, 38 percent of the Afghanistan population lives below the poverty line. Because of poverty and unemployment, many young people turn to insurgency. The average age of a suicide bomber is 23 years old. In Afghanistan, Amini shares the problem of the opium poppy industry. In areas where opium poppy plantations bloom, so too does poverty and insurgency bloom there. Poor young people have no means of sustainable survival, the drug industry offers them an alternate way of life and a source of income, and they find themselves in the web of insurgency, trapped in the vicious cycle of violence and poverty.
How about the three 16-year-old girls? How were they convinced to leave behind the privileged life they knew in Britain for a chance to be part of ISIS in conflict-torn Syria? Amini explains that it must be the identity-searching and creative energy which are part and parcel of this age group that are causing the movements towards insurgency.
Without jobs to harness the energy of the youth, education to direct them to other career paths, nor self-reliance to prevent them from seeking survival from militant groups, insurgency will always be an option for young people.
Amini suggests that to combat financial insecurity in Afghanistan and thus, combat terrorism, the following reforms should be made.
Community: In order to guide the youth and make them more productive citizens of the country, they have to be reintegrated into the community. This can be done with the help of religious beliefs, civil society, the private sector, and NGOs.
Military: The Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF) has to be trained and equipped to fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. Software programming and development should also be part of the training to fight terrorism. Amini also suggests that the number of international troops must be increased in Afghanistan and that more equipment should be provided to the ANSF to secure insecure areas and to give them the upper-hand in the battlefield.
Legal: Drug traffickers and insurgents should be punished by the courts publicly. Also, good governance, rule of law, and human rights should be followed in the standard way.
Education: Educational opportunities should be given to impoverished Afghan youth such as scholarships, vocational trainings, and networking seminars.
Economy: By improving the economy, the cycle of poverty will be broken and Afghan youth will not have to turn to insurgency to meet their daily needs. Improvements can be made in agriculture, livestock, infrastructure improvement, and mineral exploitation.
And Amini’s suggestions are spot on. Terrorism is a multi-faceted problem, and should not be simply diminished as a problem of force and military power. To combat the root causes of terrorism, one must look at the human being entrenched in it. One must look at the faces of the youth. Why are they there? What does insurgency or terrorism supply them? What are their dreams and hopes for themselves and their community?
Once we understand motives, dreams, and personalities, we will better know how to deal with the problem of terrorism and security. If we implement a multidimensional approach to terrorism and to understanding the youth, we will be able to not only create peaceful states but also states where each individual, each youth is given the capacity to improve his level of well-being.
If we do this, we will no longer have to watch our young boys and girls abandon their families to seek refuge in the false promise that violence will provide them peace.