While the use of child soldiers has declined in recent years, it has not ended entirely. Children remain front-line participants in a variety of conflicts throughout the world and are actively recruited by armed groups and terrorist organizations. Reports of children involved in terrorism have become all too common. Boko Haram has repeatedly selected women and girls as their primary suicide attackers, and, in Somalia, the United Nations reported that al-Shabaab was responsible for recruiting over 1,800 children in 2019. In Iraq and Syria, children were routinely featured in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) propaganda, and the group mobilized children as “cubs” to fight for the so-called Caliphate. Unfortunately there is a myriad of reasons why terrorist organizations actively include children within their ranks: children can be proficient fighters, and they are easy to train, cheaper to feed, and harder to detect. Thus, recruiting and deploying children is often rooted in “strategy” and not necessarily the result of shrinking numbers of adult recruits. Drawing from the robust literature on child soldiers, there are areas of convergence (and divergence) that explain the pathways children take in and out of terrorist organizations and the roles they play. Focusing on two cases, al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we argue that there are three distinct but overlapping processes of child recruitment, including forced conscription (i.e., kidnapping), subtle manipulation and coercion (i.e., cultures of martyrdom), and a process of seemingly “voluntary recruitment,” which is almost always the result of intimidation and pressure given the children’s age and their (in)ability to provide consent. The concepts of consent and agency are key, especially when weighing the ethical and legal questions of what to do with these children once rescued or detained. Nonetheless, the children are first and foremost victims and should be awarded special protected status in any domestic or international court. In 2020, countries were seeking to balance human rights, legal responsibility, and national security around the challenge of repatriating the thousands of children affiliated with ISIS and still languishing in the al-Hol and Al Roj camps.
Mia Bloom and Kristian Kastner Warpinski
Berenike Prem and Elke Krahmann
While early private military and security companies (PMSCs) were likened to mercenaries, today most scholars agree that PMSCs constitute a new phenomenon. They are organized as legitimate corporate entities, have a distinct legal status, and provide a wide range of military and security services. This definition reflects the evolution of the PMSC industry, which has moved beyond combat services to supply everything from transport, logistics, and maintenance to military and police training, demining, intelligence, risk analysis, armed and unarmed protective services, anti-piracy measures, border protection, and drone operations. Not only have PMSC services diversified, but so has their client base. In addition to industrialized and failed states, transnational corporations, international organizations, and even NGOs increasingly make use of PMSCs. There are several explanations for the growing recourse to these companies. Functional explanations see the employment of PMSCs as a rational response to the glaring gap between demand and supply in the market for force. Ideational and constructivist approaches, by contrast, impute national differences in the outsourcing of military and security services to dominant beliefs and norms about the appropriate relationship between the state and the market. The consequences of using PMSCs, including the accountability, effectiveness, and state control of PMSCs, issues of gender and racial equality, and theoretical implications for the location of political authority and the public good character of security are key issues. So is the question of suitable forms of regulation for the industry, including national and international laws, informal industry self-regulations, and hybrid regulatory approaches such as multi-stakeholder initiatives and standard setting schemes.