Western foreign fighters in Syria: an empirical analysis of recruitment and mobilization mechanisms

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Authors
Dragon, Justin D.
Subjects
Islamic extremism
foreign fighters
transnational terrorism
radicalization
Syria
ISIS
Jabhat al-Nusra
Advisors
Hafez, Mohammed M.
Date of Issue
2015-06
Date
Jun-15
Publisher
Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
Syria has become a beacon for foreign fighters. Estimates in 2015 indicate that over 20,000 men and women have gone there to fight for various insurgent groups. This conflict is unique due to the unprecedented number of Westerners fighting. The central purpose of this study is to better understand recruitment and mobilization mechanisms as they pertain to fighters from Western nations. Why are these men and women leaving the relative safety of the West to enter a violent internecine conflict? What will happen if they decide to return home? To answer these questions, this thesis constructs 20 Western foreign fighter profiles from open source demographic, biographical, and motivational information, and then presents the findings. In particular, three variables—networks, anchoring, and group dynamics—are evaluated as critical drivers of recruitment and mobilization. The findings of this research show that traditional social networks, such as kinship, occupational, and religious groups, are most effective at recruiting and mobilizing prospective foreign fighters. Also, the data shows anchored individuals rarely mobilize. Furthermore, group dynamics appear critical to the mobilization of foreign fighters into Syria. Finally, the findings do not support social media efficacy in recruitment or mobilization.
Type
Thesis
Description
Series/Report No
Department
National Security Affairs
National Security Affairs
Organization
Identifiers
NPS Report Number
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Distribution Statement
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Rights
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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