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Boyz To 'Men': Al-Qaeda's Youth Recruiting

CBS News is reporting an up-tick in al-Qaeda's recruitment of young boys into its terrorist ranks. While not questioning the core point of the report (youth recruitment), it may be worth pausing to re-consider the context provided. First, the article itself:

The mountains visible in the background of the video suggest that it was carried out in the rugged terrain somewhere in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The effort to recruit young boys for the cause has been extended to central Asia. We have reports that this effort may now be up to two years old,” said one senior Middle Eastern security official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

He said al Qaeda appears to have had more success in central Asian countries such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - the two states at the center of Islamic militancy - compared to other central Asian republics.

Though impossible to document the scale on which al Qaeda has successfully recruited young boys, the security official said, "You are looking at maybe a few hundred such cases."

While confirming the report of al Qaeda recruiting boys in central Asia, another Middle East security official said the militant group was eager to build its ranks in the former Soviet republics, which are seen as an emerging important frontier.

No doubt al-Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment of young boys into its terrorist ranks. However, this is not a new phenomenon for al-Qaeda.

The article mentions the young Taliban boy seen in a propaganda video beheading a 'spy for the US' in Pakistan. But al-Qaeda's Iraq arm recruited young boys as well, and was also depicted in video propaganda. Furthermore, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), al-Qaeda's 'farm team' in Somalia, fostered the formation of as-Shabab - which literally translates into "Youth Movement."

Al-Qaeda targets youth primarily because they are highly impressionable - often a blank slate upon which to create a radical in their own image. This is neither a new phenomenon for al-Qaeda, nor is it a new human phenomenon. Gangs and cults have targeted youth for recruitment for as long as the histories of either can be traced.