Since so much energy is being focused on understanding what would make a young man join the Islamic Jihad, it seemed logical to also understand the life of the average jihadist. Once convinced and recruited (by whatever means) the life of a young idealist is changed forever. Enthusiastic and impressionable, the green recruits must be excited to begin their training with battle hardened fighters from all over the world. Finally, a chance to prove one’s faith, loyalty and mettle.
After watching hundreds of YouTube videos, reading reams of extremist literature, and listening to angry voices preaching violence and revenge, the youthful idealist can easily be transformed into a wanton killer in waiting. If that youthful idealist has no other influences to counter his chosen path, he will eagerly go off to a strange land to fight and die for “some cause”.
However, the narrative above presupposes everybody who signs up for the fight, has what it takes for the fight. What about the guys who realize too late, that living in the desert, sharing food and water rations with guys who don’t shave or wash regularly, while sleeping with one eye open between pitched battles and firefights everyday is not what they’d envisioned?
What if, after awhile Sharia law begins to look better on paper than it does in practice? What if killing innocent human beings as they beg for their lives ain’t as easy as it looks on the Internet. What if the rookie jihadist pukes at the sight of his first beheading? What about the guys who can’t take the sight of blood soaked body parts strewn in the streets after a car bombing? What about the guys who have second thoughts when approached to put on a suicide vest? What about those who say “to hell with this shit, I think want out!” What happens to those guys? Do they get to go home or just never heard from again?
While there is little data available for the rates of PTSDs among young Islamic jihadist, one can reasonably presume said rates are incredible high. Considering there’s just as little information available concerning how the jihadist receives adequate treatment for phycological ills developed on the battlefield, one would be safe to presume there is no treatment for said battlefield ills. What happens to those guys? Will they one day resettle back in their home countries like undiscovered land mines waiting to go off?
Bottom line: If the reality of a true global Islamic Caliphate ever being a realized is rather remote, then the only true future for the young idealist turned jihadist fighter is to just to fight and die until they get tired of fighting and dying.