News & Politics

ISIS NOT Contained: Foreign Fighters Have Doubled in Syria, Iraq This Year

Although President Obama claimed last week that ISIS has been “contained,” the inconvenient truth is this:

The number of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria has more than doubled since last year to at least 27,000, a report by an intelligence consultancy said on Dec. 8, highlighting the global dimension of the conflict. The figures, compiled by the Soufan Group, indicate that efforts by countries around the world to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria and blunt the appeal of violent organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) appear to have made little impact.

In its report, the New York-based security consultancy says:

The foreign fighter phenomenon in Iraq and Syria is truly global. The Islamic State has seen success beyond the dreams of other terrorist groups that now appear conventional and even old-fashioned, such as Al-Qaeda. It has energized tens of thousands of people to join it, and inspired many more to support it.

The fighters originate from as many as 86 countries. According to the Soufan Group, there are now a minimum of 27,000 in Iraq and Syria, and at most 31,000. When the same organization published an earlier report in June 2014, there were only 12,000 foreign fighters active in those two countries. Eight thousand fighters come from the Middle East and the Maghreb (western North Africa). Another 5,000 have arrived from Europe, while 4,700 originate from the former Soviet republics.

These numbers are proof that Obama was not telling the truth when he asserted that ISIS has been contained. The opposite is true: the radical Islamic organization is bigger and more powerful than ever before.

And that isn’t the only troubling aspect of the report. The Soufan Group also explains that 20 to 30 percent of these fighters eventually return to their home countries. Because their experiences on the battlefield have radicalized them even more, and because they now have military skills, these fighters pose a serious threat to their countries of origin. In other words: the West is first exporting terrorists and then re-importing them as battle-hardened veterans.

Although Obama wants us to believe that the end of ISIS is near, it appears instead that the Islamic State is stronger than ever, and now poses a serious threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world.