An investigation initiated by the American CIA and FBI in 2009 revealed that at least 100 Islamic extremists had infiltrated the U.S. military, and that some of these individuals had been in touch with Islamic radicals who had infiltrated military units in Spain, as well as Britain, France and Germany.
The military is an attractive employment option for many young Muslims born in Spain, where the unemployment rate is stuck at 27%, and the jobless rate for individuals under 25 exceeds 60%. Often, a stint in the military opens doors for civilian jobs with national or local police or other security-related occupations.
The Spanish military is quietly monitoring its Muslim soldiers in an effort to prevent the spread of Islamic radicalism within its ranks, according to a classified Defense Ministry document that has been leaked to the Spanish media.
The Spanish Army has also been systematically replacing its Muslim soldiers with new recruits from Latin America in an effort to reduce the potential for trouble in areas of Spain that have a large Muslim population.
Spain abolished the draft and transitioned to a professional military in 2002, but has been unable to find enough native Spanish volunteer soldiers to fill the ranks—due to a mix of apathy, pacifism and declining birth rates (Spain has a fertility rate of just 1.36 (2011), one of the lowest in the European Union).
Like other European countries facing a similar dilemma, the Spanish Defense Ministry, in a desperate search for soldiers, is increasingly relying on Muslim recruits. But the push to boost Muslim enlistment has been a double-edged sword: while Spain needs the extra manpower, it also worries that some Muslim soldiers harbor extremist ideologies.
The leaked document, entitled, "Measures to be Applied to Military Personnel Identified as Showing Signs of Radicalism," was issued by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Spanish Army, Lieutenant General Jesús Carlos Fernández Asensio, on October 24, 2013.
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