Thursday, April 17, 2008


What Foreign Fighter Data Reveals About the Future of Terrorism
by Clinton Watts

-He is a young man who likely comes from a handful of cities in North Africa and the Middle East—what I call flashpoint cities. He is probably from a country that has a high infant mortality rate, a high unemployment rate, and few civil liberties.

-The mujahid* was not mobilized by Internet content or a centralized recruiting organization but instead by a returning foreign fighter or a local religious leader. The returning fighter or religiousl eader told him how to travel to a country where he could engage in combat. The mujahid, and probably some friends, traveled by a commercial plane or ground transportation to a country that neighbors theconflict area and then paid a local smuggler to get him in.

-The mujahid’s financial assets and spending habits vary between countries. If he is Saudi, he will contribute significantly more money to the fight. Meanwhile, a Moroccan will give his life as a suicide bomber but does not have much cash to spare. Regardless of location, the mujahid is also likely unemployed or a student (which usually amounts to the same thing) or works as a common laborer. He is not necessarily impoverished but has time on his hands and a lack of purpose, making him more susceptible to radicalization and giving him enough free time to travel in support of jihad. If he has experience fighting, he will elect to fight; if not, he will elect to be a suicide bomber.

In addition to informing the above profile of al-Qa’ida’s foot soldiers, the data suggests alternative techniques for countering the organization and its foreign fighter recruits . . .

th[e] study does not analyze the threat of terrorism from South Asia. Pakistan still remains the headquarters of al-Qa’ida, and the diversity of Pakistani militant groups pose a serious foreign fighter threat as well, evidenced by attacks in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. However, the records from Sinjar and Guantanamo Bay do not support analysis of this phenomenon.

Second, in addition to detainee data available from Guantanamo, this study is based on my own analysis of the Sinjar records** released in December 2007. A recent Combating Terrorism Center study identified 595 discrete entries from the translated Sinjar records, whereas I found only 563 unique fighter records stating a country of origin outside of Iraq . . .
--Clinton Watts
"Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan
What Foreign Fighter Data Reveals About the Future of Terrorism"
Small Wars Journal
* mujahid - a Muslim engaged in what he considers to be a jihad
mujahadeen, mujahadein, mujahadin, mujahedeen, mujahedin, mujahideen, mujahidin - a military force of Muslim guerilla warriors engaged in a jihad; "some call the mujahidin international warriors but others just call them terrorists"
Moslem, Muslim - a believer in or follower of Islam

**NOTE: Sinjar records link thanks to

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