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Wives and childern of former ISIS fighters line up in the foreign section of the al-Hawl refugee camp

Dealing with returning jihadists

Foreign Fighters in Syria

July 2014, Number 05.03

“Protests and unrest in Syria in March 2011 grew, seemingly overnight, into full-blown civil war. From the outset, the conflict attracted a variety of state and nonstate actors who believe they have a stake in the outcome. As the violence escalated, the war in Syria became the focal point of “global jihad,” as promoted by al-Qaida and related groups. Now in its third year, the Syrian conflict has attracted an unprecedented number of foreign fighters — experts estimate 11,000 from more than 70 different countries — many of whom are violent jihadists.1 The scale of the problem and ongoing ties between Muslim foreign fighters and jihadist terrorism generate deep concern that fighters will further radicalize while overseas and return home intent on carrying out domestic terrorist attacks.

It is therefore vital to conduct an accurate threat assessment and review the range of policy options available. I will draw upon recent studies of jihadist foreign fighters in Syria and other conflicts to examine who the fighters are, why and how they are going to Syria, what they are doing when they get there, and what they are likely to do if and when they return...”

Excerpt from Sam Mullins, “Foreign Fighters in Syria,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues  5, No. 3, 2014: 36-43.

Dr. Sam Mullins is a professor of counterterrorism at the Marshall Center. He is also an honorary fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and serves on the editorial board for the publications Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression and Perspectives on Terrorism.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.