Foreign fighters for ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have begun to find their ways back to their countries of origin and as much as 30 percent may have already done so, or so claims a report from the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the United Nations Security Council. The problem — in addition to the fact that militarily trained extremists from a failed war (ISIS’ territory is noticeably collapsing) are returning to peaceful towns and cities — is that international databases can identify barely more than 7,000 of them.
The Daily Caller reported last week that a United Nations report has warned that somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of the foreign fighters that have gone to serve as troops for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have already made it back home, having left the war-torn Middle Eastern countries as the self-proclaimed caliphate (June 2014) finds itself fighting both a conventional and urban guerrilla war with Syrian government troops backed by Russian airpower, Iraqi defense forces supported by American special forces and airpower, Peshmerga troops from the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, and various militias and rebel groups. Be that as it may, quite a few of those foreign fighters who once fought for the extremist Islamic State are now back in their respective home countries.
The report stated that the returning jihadis basically fit into two categories. “Some returnees have left conflict zones after they were disappointed in ISIS and changed their minds about the conflict. In the assessment of the member States, they are in the lower part of the spectrum of risk, while some persons have returned with the specific intention and the willingness to commit terrorist attacks, as evidenced by the attacks in Paris and Brussels.”
The latter, of course, could pose an increasingly dangerous domestic security threat as time goes by, the numbers of returnees increase, and how well they are able to proselytize and continue implementing the terrorist agenda of ISIS. The report noted that there now exists roughly 30,000 foreign fighters still in the region, although U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, estimated earlier in the month (per Associated Press) that ISIS’ total active fighting strength — which would include domestic fighters alongside those from other nations — ranged from 15,000 to 20,000.
“The number of foreign terrorist fighters is very high” in Syria and Iraq, according to the head of the U.N’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Jean-Paul Laborde (per Newsweek).
Those differences in estimates of ISIS militants aside, the report also noted that over 7,000 foreign extremists currently fighting in Iraq and Syria have been identified and have been listed by the international police agency Interpol, according to Agence France-Presse and Albaraka News.
But what about those they have yet to identify and will soon leave the fighting? And what about those that have already departed the battlefields? Of the estimated 10 to 30 percent of the foreign fighters that have fought for ISIS that are already back within the borders of their home countries, how many can be identified? Therein lies the potential for threat, especially within the European nations like France, where the number of ISIS recruits numbered in the thousands.
Western countries have reason for concern over the returnees, because they cannot count on the extremists being captured or killed in battle. And although ISIS is itself decreasing the number of potential future terrorists able to return home (a reported mass grave revealed, according to an Inquisitr report, where the extremists gassed to death 200 of their own fighters in Anbar province), these deaths are negligible compared to the total number of foreign fighters that return to their home countries with the inclination to carry out terrorist acts.
In fact, ISIS began altering its recruitment message months ago, urging potential members through social media to not bother to come to the Middle East (which had been the message since Islamic State declared their caliphate) any longer. Instead, they urged their followers to commit acts of terror in the global war against ISIS’ enemies; that is, the recruits were urged to stage attacks in their own countries, individually and in groups.
With the number of ISIS fighters returning home set to increase as the Islamic State loses its war in Iraq and Syria, the potential domestic security threat increases as well. Because not only does ISIS now have fighters to carry out their global jihad with attacks in countries throughout the world, but those returnees will also be able to personally recruit for the Islamic State.
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