Americans and ISIS Recruitment

The Extremist Group ISIS Enlisting Americans

The extremist group Islamic States in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is enlisting Americans, according to newly available intelligence. Law enforcement authorities in the United States have increased security after the 9/11 attacks, notably for those of Islamic heritage entering the country (Atwan, 2015). These actions have forced this terror organization, along with others of a similar mindset, to consider innovative methods for gathering intelligence and carrying out assaults on American soil. ISIS has therefore started a recruitment and mobilization drive to radicalize Americans. This scholarly piece will concentrate on it in an effort to clarify the problem. The degree of recruitment and mobilization of American citizens by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is worrying.

A Report by The George Washington State University Program on Extremism

A report by The George Washington State University Program on Extremism reveals damning information. According to this report, 250 Americans traveled, or wanted to travel, to Syria and Iraq with the aim of joining ISIS. Additionally, there are 900 cases under investigation from law enforcement agencies on ISIS sympathizers in all American states. The report also states that between March 2014 and December 2015, 71 citizens of the United States were arrested for participating in activities supporting the extremist group. The arrested group comprised of 86 percent males who averaged 26 years of age, traced in 21 American states. Approximately 27 percent of the arrested individuals were planning to conduct attacks within the United States (Vidino & Hughes, 2015).

The American Face of ISIS

A February 2017 report named 'The American Face of ISIS' contests popular beliefs on ISIS sympathizers that include notions that they are unemployed, isolated, and uneducated. The report used court documents and other pertinent materials to identify and examine the 112 ISIS sympathizers. The results showed that United States citizens accounted for 83 percent of the profiled indictees, while 65 percent of them were US-born (Pape et al., 2017). Additional information revealed that 66 percent of persons in the group have college education. About 50 percent were married, engaged, or divorced, and there were minimal loners or outcasts. These reports show the magnitude of the problem and nullify earlier misconceptions on outsiders posing significant risk of perpetrating attacks than citizens.

Recruitment Methods

Online Recruitment

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria extremist group predominantly employs social networking sites (SNS) to recruit United States citizens. These sites provide anonymity for the recruiters as well as ensuring the process is discrete (Clarke, 2008). More importantly, SNS make communication instantaneous, making the process fast and efficient. The privacy measures provided by the SNS work to the benefit of the recruiters much to the dismay of law enforcement agencies. The reason for ISIS' success in recruiting using the internet is because they pay the recruiter about $10,000 for every recruit, with the price depending on the level of skill possessed by the recruit. The most common sites for recruiting include Facebook (Gates & Podder, 2015), Twitter, and YouTube. Recruiters spend numerous hours engaging participants and steering them towards the ideological concepts of ISIS. An ISIS user manual called "A Course in the Art of Recruiting" recommends recruits to share their feelings of joy and sadness to create sentimental attachment.

The CTC Sentinel

The CTC Sentinel summarizes their online recruiting proceedings into a five-level template. The first level is ISIS through its recruiter discovering possible recruits, or in some cases, the potential recruit discovering ISIS. The second is the creation of a micro-community that congregates around possible online recruits. The micro-community uses social input to convince the recruits that their course is well-intentioned. The third level entails isolating likely recruits by encouraging them to sever ties with mainstream influences. The fourth level is encouraging likely targets to transfer their conversations to messaging platforms that offer privacy and encryption of information. The fifth step is to encourage the supporter to take an action they feel is appropriate, that is, if the recruit feels they need to join the course, the recruiter encourages the recruit to travel to Syria (Berger, 2015).


Recruiters also manipulate United States citizens into joining ISIS using false promises. It is easier for a recruiter to lure targets through false information than informing the murderous purpose of the group. The illustrates how ISIS recruiters lured two young women aged 19 and 21 to war-raged Syria using a fantasy of providing humanitarian work. The two became sex slaves for Jihadi fighters until their escape after a bombing (Geiger, 2015). Others join with the hope of participating in something significant or joining an idealistic movement.


Isolation is an effective method used by ISIS in recruiting new members. They look for isolated individuals within a target community or isolate a non-isolated individual. The group targets teenagers mainly because they have a tendency to feel out-of-touch with their peers, which leads to them constantly pursuing activities that make them feel involved (Ristori, 2015). Additionally, teenagers often feel that they have not discerned their purpose in life. Recruiters continue to impose isolation throughout the recruiting process by encouraging them to keep their activities discrete from others.


The radicalization of American citizens by the terror group ISIS is a serious concern. There is a need for law enforcement agencies within the United States and around Europe to enforce proactive strategies to diminish attempts of any group to convert gullible inhabitants (Leggiero, 2015). Social media acts as a perfect apparatus for recruitment, thus, authorities should ascertain that these channels for mobilization and recruitment are closed.


Atwan, A. B. (2015). Islamic state: The digital caliphate. Univ of California Press.

Berger, J., M. (2015). How terrorists recruit online (and how to stop it). Retrieved on November 18 2017 from

Clarke, R. A. (2008). Against all enemies: Inside America’s war on terror. Simon and Schuster.

Farwell, J. P. (2014). The media strategy of ISIS. Survival, 56(6), 49-55.

Gates, S., & Podder, S. (2015). Social media, recruitment, allegiance and the Islamic State. Perspectives on Terrorism, 9(4).

Geiger, D. (2015). This is How ISIS Uses Social Media to Recruit American Teens. Retrieved on November 18 2017 from

Leggiero, K. (2015). Countering ISIS Recruitment in Western Nations. Journal of Political Risk, 3(1).

Pape, R., Decety, J., Ruby, K., Albanez Rivas, A., Jessen, J. & Wegner, C. (2017). The American face of ISIS: Analysis of ISIS-related terrorism in the US March 2014–August 2016. Chicago Project on Security & Threats.

Ristori, C., M. (2015). Online Jihad: ISIS’s Foreign Recruitment Strategies—Who, What, and How?.

Vidino, L., & Hughes, S. (2015). ISIS in America: From retweets to Raqqa. Program on Extremism, The George Washington University.

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