Small Wars Journal

Jihadi Generations: Strategies Used For Weaponizing Children (Part 2)

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 12:15am

Jihadi Generations: Strategies Used For Weaponizing Children (Part 2)

Joanne Patti Munisteri


Violent extremist groups are using all methods possible to wage a successful long-term campaign using children. These groups infiltrate existing systems, threaten and radicalize important players, use extreme forms of violence to attack those they perceive as non-compliant. No foundation of society is off limits be it:  hospitals, schools, religious organizations, legal institutions, law enforcement, orphanages, charities, sports, businesses, transportation, recreation or communication sites. Every means is justified for their stated aim of a worldwide Islamic caliphate under Sharia law. The scope of this phenomenon has increased in the past decade, however the methods implemented were developed and refined during and after World War II.   No child is left behind if they can be exploited.

Photos below are released by Islamic State on ISIS' preferred anonymous file sharing website - - (December 2014- December 2016)

Female Roles

Girls are also prized as “Pearls of the Caliphate” who are either born into these violent extremist groups, sold or given over by their families, or abandoned and end up in orphanages controlled by these VEGs, (violent extremist groups). Some are purposely kidnapped then trafficked.

All girls must convert to Islam. The alternative is to be used as a sex slave, slave labor, or be killed.  Muslim girls are reared in strict sharia law observance given instructions on how to care for and tend jihad fighters according to their own codes

“Children of both sexes are required to attend school from the age of five. Girls are given a domestic education, learning how to take care of husbands, raise children and maintain households while adhering to strict ISIS ideology. To provide for their family’s needs, girls are expected to be able to sew and knit, as this is their contribution to the state, along with producing sons to send out to battle. These girls will never receive a proper education and are expected to marry at the age of nine. There are currently at least 31,000 pregnant girls and women within the Islamic State.” []

When girls become mothers, they are encouraged to offer their children up to the Islamic state for whatever purposes are needed, including as suicide bombers. The English translation of the publication “Dabiq” [propaganda magazine of the Islamic State published on the deep web/dark web) promotes sacrifice with the words: “As for you, O mother of lion cubs. ... And what will make you know what the mother of lion cubs is?  She is the teacher of generations and the producer of men, men who will sacrifice all for the Islamic State, for the will of Allah" (2014).

Girls have recently been used as suicide bombers, recruiters for other children, lures, spies and enforcers. They also work in guest houses, ministry offices, schools, media, shops, clinics, as sex slaves and bomb makers.

“In Pakistan, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – also known as the Pakistani Taliban -- established a women’s suicide squad called Jannati Khawateen (Women of Paradise).

TTP is an umbrella group of various Islamist militant groups intent on resisting the Pakistani state, enforcing their interpretation of Shari’ah law, and operating against the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. Its female suicide squad consists of 12-16 women.”

The female suicide squad members are trained to operate like commandos using machine-guns and hand grenades for carrying out terrorist attacks to accomplish their mission. This suicide squad was specifically established to attack difficult or high value targets. They start their training before they reach puberty.

“These female suicide cells were established by and remain under the command of Qari Zia Rahman, the dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda commander who operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. He is the Taliban's top regional commander as well as a member of al Qaeda.”           

Older girls and women are used as enforcers to keep the female children in line. 

Girls who are part of families and communities in regions where violent extremist groups are in charge are especially vulnerable to attack, kidnapping and reprisals if they try to attend government or private schools. 

“Night Letters” are used to threaten entire communities in the south, south eastern and central provinces of Afghanistan. They warn entire communities not to send their daughters to school. They call on teachers and government employees to close schools, especially schools for girls. They are cautioned that failure to comply to the VEGs demands leads to punishments such as acid, gas attacks and/or bio terrorism.

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Ghazni has had two serious “poisoning attacks” on girl’s schools in Ghazni city at Kak-i-Gariba Girls High School- 50 girls were poisoned, and on June 7, 2017 in the Jaghori district in southern Ghazni province, the Ministry of Education office tweeted that 35 girls had been poisoned.   Pajhwok news reporter Saifullah Maftoon reported the incidents.

Sometimes the only schools open in a village or district are controlled by the Taliban or their affiliates. The Haqqanis operate countless madrassas and training bases in villages and cities. These serve as guesthouses and way stations for foreign fighters and terrorist groups -a fertile ground for cooperation among jihadi organizations.

“The madrassa system typifies the interlocking web of political and economic bargaining that has supported interactions between the Haqqanis, other militant actors, the illicit business community, and the populace. The madrassas have served as key conduits for cash couriers moving illicit proceeds out of Afghanistan, and for network leaders sending monthly salary payments to fighters inside the country.” []


There is virtually no problem with retention of VEG members and fighters.

There is no way to leave except by escape or death. Many die trying to escape and their torture and execution are used as gruesome examples to any others contemplating to leave “the fold”.


There seems to be a continual supply of young militants due to the conditions of poverty, conflict, the absence of the rule of law or the absence of family and cohesive societal support. The Islamic State and their various branches have been able to sustain monthly losses of about 150 men and still regenerate their forces.

Many children and adults who were victims of abuse, exploitation and torture by their own local or national government employees, by military, special forces units and/or contractors from national or international companies- eventually escape or are discarded after use or imprisonment –if they are not killed.  The disastrous Operation Medusa in Khandahar and the reliance on the criminal governor Ashadullah Khalid, on Ahmed Wali Karzai and Harjit Sajjan (now Defense Minister in Canada)-is one terrifying case where the wrong people were arrested and political opponents and/or business competitors of the above named men were put on ‘terrorist lists’ and unjustly imprisoned, tortured and killed-often in front of their families.    

The survivors of these calamities are living witnesses and the walking wounded who often seek shelter wherever they can find it, and they are also often the most impassioned ‘volunteers’ to the caliphate camps.

Due to the criminal activity of a number of companies involved in child labor and child sex trafficking who are contracted by the US government or the UN, victims who have been exploited by international workers in Afghanistan and Pakistan, (and elsewhere) are more vulnerable to the promises of ‘righteous vengeance’ offered by Islamic violent extremist groups.

“There is a widespread practice of holding child sex slaves by police in southern Uruzgan and other provinces and now the Taliban are using them as Trojan Horses to kill their abusers. “ 

Their own governments, the international coalition partners of the US, UK, NATO and the UN, are seemingly powerless or apathetic to their plight, or are the actual perpetrators of exploitation and abuse.  This has been happening for decades and provides a seething supply of children and adults who find their way into violent extremist groups.

Report: Hundreds of women & children forced into sex by United Nations "peacekeepers" John Vibes, The Free Thought Project, June 10, 2015.

Multinational corporations working with the US and NATO military deployed to Afghanistan, (and other countries in conflict); knowingly shelter, support and provide trafficked children-some including: KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) Halliburton, Korean company Daewoo, HSBC, The Swiss embassy in Islamabad, Nike company, Stadtlander Cotton from Germany, Mining companies in Afghanistan-rely on child labor and sex slaves. They have continued operations using children with impunity.

“Switzerland has announced it is replacing all its embassy and consular staff in Pakistan after accusations some employees were involved in a human trafficking racket.  Switzerland shut the visa section at its Islamabad embassy earlier this month, following a Pakistani investigation into the illegal issuing of Swiss visas that has led to a number of arrests.” []

Recently in Afghanistan it was revealed by a Wiki Leaks cable that DynCorp threw “boy-play” parties for new Afghan police recruits, traded and transported child sex slaves.  The exploits of DynCorp are/were funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

“DynCorp, while still enjoying the lucrative privilege of doing business with the US government at the taxpayers' expense, has failed to reform itself or regulate the sexual exploits of its employees with children, according to numerous emails, released by Wiki Leaks, between Cheryl Mills and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In spite of all these nefarious activities, DynCorp continues to be rewarded with US government contracts. In December of 2016, the US Navy signed a $94 million contract with DynCorp to "facilitate humanitarian aid, civic assistance, minor military construction and contingency programs to support exercises and other initiatives..."

[Tue, 18 Apr 2017- Jay Syrmopoulos, The Free Thought Project]

Leaving No Other Options

Since 2013, there has been an escalation in attacks claimed by the Taliban and ISIS/Daesh on programs through the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan and on village, district and provincial education teaching and administrative personnel. There is a declared strategy by the VEGs to strike all those trying to introduce and implement more democratic and inclusive legal and educational foundations for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan-and all those who help them. By doing this they intend to destroy any other possible options except ‘their system’ of justice and education.

“The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at a French cultural centre located on the grounds of Istiqlal high school in the centre of the Afghan capital.  According to Kabul’s police chief, Abdul Rahman Rahimi, footage from the theatre hall showed the bomber to be about 16 years old.” []

“ In the fall of 2015, the Taliban launched an assault on the city of Kunduz (AAN 20 Jan. 2016) According to the AAN analyst, after the city fell in September, the Taliban reportedly started looking for people they identified as NGO workers based on personnel information they "presumably" obtained while breaking into NGO offices and that the Taliban had a list containing photos and names which they allegedly used to locate activists, journalists, teachers and civil servants during house-to-house searches.   During the assault, the Taliban looted NGO property, including the ICRC, burned offices, and destroyed equipment belonging to civil society groups.” 

Claims by the Taliban for the attacks in Kunduz, (starting in 2015) can be substantiated by medical facilities showing how many children they treated during and after the attack dates.    Reports specified: “child fighters injured-at least 200- between September 28 and October 13, 2016”.  

In Kohistanat district in the northern Sar-e Pul province, which has been under insurgent control for 18 months, Taliban officials head the education as well as health, religious study and security departments in 2017.

“Targeted attacks on civilians by the Taliban also increased in 2015. In statements released in April and May, the Taliban vowed to kill government officials, specifically judges, prosecutors, and employees of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Education.  The Taliban also identified Afghans and foreigners working for aid organizations as targets, a policy that helped make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country for humanitarian aid workers.” []

“January 19, 2016-Armed militants stormed Bacha Khan university in volatile northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens a little more than a year after the massacre of 134 students at a school in the area, officials said. The university teaches over 3,000 students and had an additional 600 students visiting for a poetry recital.  Umar Mansoor, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander involved in the December 2014 attack on the army school in Peshawar, claimed responsibility for the Charsadda assault and said it involved four of his men.”    []

The Taliban and ISIS/Daesh require their curriculum must be implemented and only teachers loyal to their cause can be employed to teach.  

“The same source indicates that targeted attacks on Ministry of Education staff or students who refuse to comply with the group's orders is the "official policy of the Taliban”. [AAN Feb. 2013, 2]

These VEGs have kidnapped, tortured and murdered those whom they know have ‘collaborated’ against them and their aims. They have overtaken entire districts, schools, staff and faculties from primary to university level and extended their reach from the provinces in the East such as Nanaghar, Kunar, Khost and Paktia to those in the North, West and South.

“The Taliban are actively interfering in the education system,” said one educator who has trained teachers in Kunar province. In areas under heavy Taliban influence, he says, insurgents introduce their own members as teachers, threatening to close government schools if they do not comply.

In Kohistanat district in the northern Sar-e Pul province, which has been under insurgent control for 18 months, Taliban officials head the education as well as health, religious study and security departments in 2017.

Brutal attacks by violent extremist groups in many provinces of Afghanistan have increased over the last four years. The following are a few examples:

“Five female employees of the nongovernmental organization ‘Save the Children’ were kidnapped in Uruzgan on March 3, 2015, by the Taliban, raped, tortured and killed when demands for the release of Taliban prisoners were rejected.” [[]

“Malim Abdul Habib was the headmaster of Shaikh Mathi Baba high school,
which is attended by 1,300 boys and girls.  Four men stabbed Malim Abdul Habib eight times late Tuesday, before decapitating him in the courtyard of his home in Qalat, said Ali Khail, aspokesman for the provincial government of Zabul, where the attack took  place.  The assailants made Habib’s wife, four sons and four daughters watch, Khail said. His children were between the ages of 2 and 22. Zabul province’s education director, Nabi Khushal, blamed Taliban rebels for the killing.”  []

According to the Ministry of Education, in Khost, 187 people which included administrators of school, teachers and students were killed, and hundreds of schools were burnt down or otherwise destroyed.

“In June 2015, in central Logar province, a teacher was shot dead on his way to school, marking the 18th killing of a teacher in the province in 2015.  

In September 2014, in Farah province, a school headmaster was kidnapped and killed by the Taliban;

In December 2014, a bomb exploded in a school in Nangarhar province, injuring nine students.” []

Violent criminal acts have not only been perpetrated against Afghan and Pakistani citizens but also on American citizens. Planning and networking was done within and outside the continental United States. At present there are no accurate figures for how many children attend mosques and Islamic religious schools in the USA.

An FBI counter-terrorism special agent reported that as many as 75% of American mosques were used by jihadist networks: [Zero Hedge news, 01/08/2017]

While VEGs in Afghanistan and Pakistan increase their attacks on education and humanitarian personnel and programs in an effective strategy of deterrence, destruction and discouragement; they concurrently increase their own education programs, expand their training camps and bring in masterful teachers and successful trainers from many parts of the Islamic world.  

These imams, mullahs and “abu” (father) figures/trainers are known for their effective methods and ‘successful’ students. These handlers also designate the children who will go to targets as suicide bombers.

"One has to be aware of the fact that members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) were thought to be competent suicide trainers while they were in Afghanistan."  [ ]

A number of boys and girls have been caught before they were able to accomplish their ‘mission’ and were arrested, questioned and incarcerated in places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Gaza and Chechnya.  Many of these children had been told they could perform these acts without being harmed themselves.

“The suicide attack was carried out by an underage bomber, a boy we think 13 or 15 years old, killing at least four and wounding over a dozen more civilians,” said interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish. A police spokesman said the attacker may have been as young as 12.

Defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said the bomber “made it through the first checkpoint but was stopped at the second checkpoint and detonated”.  []

Female suicide bombers and children who are mentally and physically disabled have also been outfitted with vests and used as suicide attackers.

It is because of these surviving children certain methods are now known to the world about the training, propaganda and strategies taught by the Islamic State/Daesh, the Taliban, HQN and other violent extremist groups.

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Rehabilitation and Reintegration: Is it Possible?

Unfortunately, we will not know if the integrated approaches presently employed to mitigate and reverse the years of conditioning techniques used on these children inculcated with extremist ideologies, trauma-based mind control, military training, learned hatred, fear and blind obedience; are truly permanent.

A child, teenager or adult may appear to be ‘rehabilitated’ or ‘healed’ from their experiences, but they themselves may not be cognizant of the full spectrum of triggers and/or responses embedded in their psyches. They may be experiments in terms of long term behavioral outcomes. Each human being is unique.  

There are no guarantees of predictors for behavior.  Some may never be able to shed the ‘automatic ingrained reaction’ of violence toward a certain person, group of people or events.   They may be programmed so successfully they are able to live without compassion and to compartmentalize their life, so they do not remember their thoughts, feelings and past actions.   Or, they may remember and acknowledge as a witness or perpetrator of horrific events, but then suffer a complete breakdown from the post-traumatic stress and recurrent memories or guilt.   They may become suicidal instead of homicidal no longer able to function in society.

Mind control technologies are considered ‘non-lethal’ weapons which employ diverse techniques for control including:  electronic microchip implants, nanotechnologies, microwaves and/or electromagnetic waves to subvert an individual’s sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making by attacking the brain and nervous system. The development of these methods and technologies has a long history starting with the Nazis in Germany, and have been utilized by governments, VEGs and criminal organizations in many countries including the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and China.

 A 1999 report to the Senate and the House said, “Between 1945 and 1955; 765 scientists, engineers, and technicians were brought to the US under Paperclip and similar programs. Some of these experts had participated in murderous medical experiments on human subjects at concentration camps.” (Bluebird Report)

These ‘non-lethal weapons’ were shared, and these methods taught, to thousands of law enforcement, military, medical, political, academic and criminal individuals via ‘training, advising, support and skills’ programs in their own countries, or in the United States.

Blowback from creating, disseminating, implementing these programs and these ‘weapons’, will multiply and infect us for years to come. It is not just the children who are directly traumatized, trained and used by governments and/or violent extremist groups; it is the other children, grandchildren, families, communities and institutions these children interact with, who will also be affected.

A current mindset for policy makers, military strategic planners and humanitarian organizations is that targeting the leaders of VEGs will diminish the problem and stem expansion. However, this operational thinking could also result in rekindled ire and motivation for vengeance-continuing and multiplying these groups.

The world is not flat and ever more inter connected.  Those who are wounded, brainwashed, programmed - on one side of our planet- may soon be travelling and infiltrating the other side in great numbers.  Many of the border guards, customs and immigration agents, social workers and teachers may not recognize these “children” as violent extremists until they act out or self-destruct, possibly taking many other human beings with them across the threshold. 

The consequences of ignoring this crisis will be a heinous burden we pass on to the next generations.


Special thanks to the following individuals for their support, keen minds and generosity in sharing their time and expertise: Dr. Richa Clements, Mr. Shams Forough, Colonel Richard E. Swisher (Retired) Special Forces, US Army, Mr. Sarwar Sultani, Ph D candidate, Colonel Mark Kerry (Retired) US Army and Dr. Kyle Latinas.


Horgan, John, and Mia Bloom. "This Is How the Islamic State Manufactures Child Militants." VICE News RSS, July 8, 2015

Puniyani, Ram. Deconstructing Terrorist Violence: Faith as a Mask, 2015

Hoodbhoy, Pervez, “The Genesis of Global Jihad in Afghanistan” paper delivered at Colombia University, New York, New York, November 14-15, 2002   JSTOR

Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban, 2000

Rashid, Ahmed. Jihad, 2002

Giustozzi, Antonio and Franco, Claudio. “The Ongoing Battle for Schools: Uprisings, Negotiations, and Taleban Tactics” February 2013

About the Author(s)

Joanne Patti Munisteri is an independent field researcher who has worked as a contractor for the US Department of State, IREX, USAID and the US DOD.   She completed training at Ft. Leavenworth as part of the Human Terrain System and has worked with various agencies, organizations and universities in China (2018-2019) Kurdistan, Iraq (2017-2018, 2020) Afghanistan (2014-2017) Pakistan (2010-2011) Ukraine (2015) Russia (2011-2012) Malaysia (2013-2014) Saudi Arabia (2013) Armenia (2008-2010) UAE (2007-2008)  Morocco (2006-2007) and a number of other countries.  She is a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, (USA) and Massey University (New Zealand). Joanne is also a TCM Health practitioner/Acupuncturist and certified Radio Engineer (NYC).  Her work has been published in the USA, New Zealand, Russia, Australia, Pakistan, Iraq and online.