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Thread: Today's Wild Geese: Foreign Fighters in the GWOT

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  1. #1
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    Default Foreign Terrorists (Iraq)

    29 Nov. Washington Times - U.S. Decimating Foreign Fighters.

    The U.S. is seeing significantly fewer foreign fighters on the battlefields of Iraq, because the coalition has killed or captured scores of terrorists in recent months and is doing a better job of securing the long border with Syria.

    But the U.S. military has noticed in recent weeks a willingness of young Iraqis to become suicide bombers, once the monopoly of ideologically driven foreign jihadists.

    We are killing them, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday, when asked about shrinking foreign-fighter numbers in Iraq.

    The trend is one reason that the Bush administration is talking more confidently about reducing the American troop presence next year to less than a base level of 138,000. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said the current 160,000 level will revert to 138,000 after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

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    Default Foreign Terrorists (Iraq)

    9 Dec. Washington Times - Inside the Ring.

    Commanders are seeing fewer foreign fighters in Iraq, a sign that operations along the Syrian border are working. There also is the hope that al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi is encountering difficulty in persuading new jihadists to come to Iraq.

    ..."In the Multi-National Force-West area of operations, we are facing a locally based Sunni-led insurgency. These local insurgents largely operate in and around their own communities and when not fighting, they blend into the local scene."

    "Terrorists and foreign fighters associated with al Qaeda in Iraq are a factor in our area and al Qaeda gains additional synergy by developing marriages of convenience with local insurgency groups composed of the other elements of the insurgency — Saddamists, rejectionists, and criminals. The terrorist and foreign fighter presence in Al Anbar is small, but it's dangerous."

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    Default Chechens

    Hi all !
    Does anyone has informations about Chechens in Iraq?
    they recived a lot of support from Al-Quaeda and others groups in both wars, so I think that some of them can be active in Iraq now

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    marriages of convenience with local insurgency
    This metaphor was stolen from me over at SOCNET.

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    Default Figuring Out the Foreign Fighter Factor in Iraq

    2 July Stars and Stripes - Figuring Out the Foreign Fighter Factor in Iraq by Andrew Tilghman.

    Even on Iraq’s western edge, once referred to as the “foreign fighter freeway,” U.S. troops disagree about the role that foreigners play in the 3-year-old insurgency.

    “Are there foreigners? Yes. Is it that big an influence overall? Probably not,” Lt. Col. Robert Jones, executive officer for Regimental Combat Team 7, said in a recent interview in his office at Camp Al Asad.

    Meanwhile, just a few miles up the Euphrates River, a battalion commander disagrees. “They are the core,” said Lt. Col. Nick Marano, commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment based in the Al Qaim region

    Both men are talking about the same region, and presumably have access to similar intelligence. But they come to different conclusions about the role of Arab fighters from countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Algeria.

    “The fact you are getting so many conflicting views on the ground just shows what a tangled web of violence this has become,” said Farhana Ali, a terrorism expert with the Rand Corp., a California-based think tank.

    The question is especially relevant in recent weeks, as U.S. military officials scrambled to identify the insurgent leader who would likely take over after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq...

    Some troops say the foreign influence is based more on money than actual military-age men.

    “The foreigner is like John Gotti, the foreign influence is money,” said Lt. Col. Norman Cooling, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, currently based in Haditha. Gotti is a New York crime boss who was convicted in 1992 of federal racketeering charges.

    “If I could eliminate the foreign influence, it would have a big impact because the local guy in the street would lose his motivation,” Cooling said. “But there are not many foreigners out there operating in the streets. They don’t have to.”

    It is also influenced by a range of political factors — both on the Iraqi and American side — that lead some officials to overestimate the significance of foreign fighters, said Anthony Cordesman, a national security expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies based in Washington, D.C...

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    Default Perspectives on foreign fighters

    I think the difference has a lot to do with the fact that one sees them in transit and the other sees them after they have reached one of their objectives. The MNFI stats suggest that the foreign fighters are responsible for most of the attacks on non combatants which makes up about 70 percent of the casualties over the last year. I would say that is significant and good reason to focus on them.

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    It seems that it maybe a matter of perspective to foreign fighters maybe small in numbers but disproportionately violent; creating an appearance of greater consequence.

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    Default AQ and FF

    What is the objective of AQ or FF in Iraq? Is it to foment a civil war? If so, why have they not bombed or targeted the Shrine of Ali (Najaf) or Shrine of Hussein (Karbala)?

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    Default Terrorist Radicalization and Recruitment

    Moderator's Note

    This is a new thread, based on two old threads and re-titled. The term foreign fighters (FF) appears in numerous threads, there are two threads specifically on the theme and I understand during the peak of operations in Iraq (OIF) it was frequently raised - although I was unable to identify a specific thread. See Post 28 for details. Moderator ends.


    From the Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Focus: Reinforcing the Mujahideen: Origins of Jihadi Manpower
    Much is written about how non-indigenous, would-be Islamist fighters enter the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to join the mujahideen fighting U.S.-led coalitions in both countries. Do they enter Afghanistan from Pakistan? Or Iran? Perhaps Central Asia? What about Iraq? Which border is the most porous? Does that dubious honor belong to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Iran? These are, of course, important questions. To know and close the entry points of these aspiring mujahideen would slow the pace at which foreign fighters could join the fray. It also would make local insurgent field commanders unsure about the dependability of the flow of replacement fighters for their units, and thereby probably limit their willingness to undertake operations that are likely to result in sizeable manpower loses.

    A more basic question, however, is seldom asked or debated. While it is clear that closing points of entry would give the U.S.-led coalitions a better chance to reduce the level of each insurgency, the more important path to victory probably lies in determining exactly from where these prospective insurgents emanate...
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-01-2012 at 12:21 AM. Reason: Add Mod's Note

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    Default Disrupting the Foreign Fighter Flow

    On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, US soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have confronted third-party national combatants. Widely known as 'foreign fighters,' these individuals have gained deadly skills, combat experience and global connections that can be exported and exploited to devastating effect, Michael P Noonan writes for FPRI.
    Appeared Oct '09 and missed by me.

    Link:http://www.fpri.org/enotes/200910.no...ghterflow.html

    The issues around foreign fighters has appeared on SWC before, within existing threads; notably when concerning Iraq and the article is a good read.

    The foreign fighter pipeline has three phases: (1) source country/flashpoint, (2) safe havens and the transit network, and (3) target locations. Others suggest that a fourth phase, outflow destinations, is important as well.

    (Concludes)..while foreign fighters are by no means chiefly responsible for all of the problems in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, working against them successfully will help to reduce violence in the war zones. Combined with effective actions on the ground, an indirect strategy that husbands and appropriately distributes resources across borders to limit recruitment, transit, and logistics for these international killers is essential to success.
    davidbfpo

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    A wave of Germans traveling to training camps for militant jihadists has alarmed security officials back in Europe. The recruits are quickly becoming radicalized and, in some cases, entire families are departing to hotbeds for terrorism. It is even believed that colonies catering to German Islamists have taken shape in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/...687306,00.html
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-06-2010 at 06:50 PM. Reason: Insert quote marks
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail


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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Some are mercs, most are simply the "road team" for the hometown insurgency of their homeland.

    AQ's message is clear and effective, essentially: "you can't win at home until you break the support of the US to the region and to your government." So they go to where the west is most vulnerable and attempt to hurt them there.

    To me the only logical point to target is the perception within each of these states these men travel from that the U.S. stands between them and achieving better governance at home. Simply killing them when they arrive only motivates more to come; the routes they travel will flow to the paths of least resistance; and to target them in their homelands is to only validate AQ's propaganda as we step in to help some fairly unsavory state leaders to suppress the insurgent segments of their societies in the name of "counterterrorism."

    My $.02
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Germany to South Waziristan

    The German journalist Yassin Musharbash has written before extensively on this "tourism" to the FATA; the 'German colony' had not been detected until the Sauerland (or Saarland) plotters were arrested and made admissions when in custody. Note the 'colony' in South Waziristan is linked to a rather low profile AQ-leaning group the Islamic Jihad Union, for a fuller details (albeit from 2008):http://www.nefafoundation.org/miscel...faijuoct08.pdf

    The IJU attracted the Sauerland plotters to a "holiday camp", where it was "fun" and to their surprise asked them to return home, to await the call, not fight in the FATA etc.

    In response to Bob's World and I
    To me the only logical point to target is the perception within each of these states these men travel from that the U.S. stands between them and achieving better governance at home.
    I agree we do need to find messages that undermine the AQ / IJU "offer" at home, that mixture has yet to emerge IMHO. These messages cannot be solely be state responses. That AQ has killed more Muslims than non-Muslims is not said enough. A difficult thing messages.

    See this CTC article for analysis on Muslims -v- non-Muslim deaths:http://www.ctc.usma.edu/Deadly%20Van...Complete_L.pdf
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-06-2010 at 09:02 PM. Reason: Last link added
    davidbfpo

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    To defeat al-Qaeda, it is crucial to understand who seeks to join and why.
    Curious. How much of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS recruitment of 14-30 year olds did we have to understand to beat them?
    PH Cannady
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    An eight minute TED talk on how the Taliban recruit/brainwash children.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

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    Default Small is beautiful and growing?

    A SWJ Blog pointer to the Newsweek article 'Inside Al Qaeda', a recommendation from another watcher and the All Things CT (from Australia) too. Sub-titled:
    Nine years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s network remains a shadowy, little-understood enemy. The truth, as revealed by one of its fighters, is both more and less troubling than we think.
    Newsweek link:http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/04/inside-al-qaeda.html

    All Things CT link:http://allthingsct.wordpress.com/201...-old-chestnut/

    An interesting account of a juvenile, of Afghan origin living in Pakistan, being recruited, trained and then leaving - in response to his mother's pleas. Yes, some gaps and credibility to this armchair watcher.

    So now All Things CT's comment:
    one thing stood straight out when I read this. Their account of the class size–some 30 persons. Why this stood out is that this was the size of AQ’s basic training course at al-Farouq (though sometimes they had up to 40). And this size is actually bigger than the advanced training course size at Tarnak, which usually sat at around 15-20 persons.

    Previous reports from recent training had tended to suggest AQ was only training at around 15 or so in a group, so this 30 figure stood out immediately. Whether they can still do this is of course a matter for debate, but nonetheless, even with talk of taking out so many fighters, which the authors cover in their article, this account of a full training compliment gives pause for thought.
    Then there is a Peter Bergen piece:http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/04/w...l-matters.html

    All Things CT again:
    Might we finally be seeing the death of that hoary old chestnut thrown about for so long–about a robust pre-9/11 ”AQ” with a large membership base of at least several hundred or more usually several thousand members, instead of the just under 200 strong membership (198 actually) it had as 9/11 loomed??? As long term readers of this blog will know it is one of the first things I wrote about when I started allthingsct last year.

    Peter Bergen’s new piece gives me hope that this may be taking place.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Would-be jihadists find holy war can really be hell

    A German story, albeit reported in The Scotsman:
    GERMAN intelligence sources have revealed how a group of Islamist radicals discovered the path of Holy War was more difficult than they supposed. The nine would-be terrorists travelled, with two women, from Germany to Afghanistan in 2009 in a bid for glory.

    (Later)They were also alienated by the experienced Uzbek fighters they had been taken on by, dispelling their notions of Islamic unity.
    Link:http://www.scotsman.com/news/Wouldbe...war.6587573.jp

    Yes, "spin" from Germany, but accords with other independent reports on the reality volunteers find upon joining the global Jihad.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Pre-Arab Spring Assessment

    Still valid. By following the back trail of the "foreign fighters" (more accurately, young men who are frustrated with their own governance and opportunity at home, but who feel they are unable to act out to effect change yet on the home front). AQ targets these young men with an ideologically fused message that focuses on a message that is in effect: 'we will help you at home, but first you must help us abroad. Breaking the influence of the US over the region and with these governments is the critical first step."

    For the US the main effort must be one of updating our Foreign Policy from one overly rooted in the Cold War (What does one become when ones starts out as the lesser of two evils, and the greater evil falls away?) to one designed for the world emerging around us today. Our interests have not changed, but the environment has. Military efforts to mitigate the symptoms of the friction caused by our policies must be held in a focused, supporting role for best effect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Some thoughts for you all to consider from someone who was embedded with the Egyptian Army during the first Gulf War:

    1. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have a lot in common in that the populaces of both states suffer under dictatorships that are supported in power largely by the U.S in exchange for support that we ask of those governments.

    2. Most foreign fighters (some 40%) in Iraq are indeed Saudi, and I would expect a large number to come from Egypt as well, though I am not aware of their open source percentage. Some 20% each come from Libya and Algeria.

    3. The Saudi's fear any growth of Shia power in particular and Iranian power in general and often play the U.S. has a hedge to protect them from this. This is due largely to the heavily oppressed Shia minority in NE Saudi Arabia that is the most motivated dissident group in Saudi Arabia, though there is a large Sunni dissidence as well.

    4. This thread started off by stating how "Egypt" was running insurgent supporting information on TV, I suspect that "Egypt" i.e., the state of Egypt, was not running this at all, and the reason this was running was because it is very popular with a suppressed Egyptian populace.

    5. The Saudi and Egyptian populaces fully recognize that they have no real hope of resolving their issues of poor governance at home until they can break the support of the U.S. in the region in general, and to their governments in particular. This is a critical point to understand. Young Saudi and Egyptian men see phase one to successful nationalist insurgency at home to be this breaking of U.S. support to two governments that have very little in common with the principles that the U.S. holds so dear.

    6. When you see that the Saudi government is "cracking down on terrorists" at home, you would be wise to consider that the people they are cracking down on are Saudi citizens who are rising up in a quest for self-determined governance, and that this tremendous "help" by our Saudi allies most likely translates to their populace as all the more why reason they must work harder to break U.S. support to this government.

    7. Some of these Saudis follow an extreme Wahabist brand of Islam, but most are moderates who want something even more extreme in this region of the world: self-determined democracy.


    My point in all of this is that this often gets colored in just one way as it is presented to the American populace. We see ourselves as "the good guys" and therefore our allies are on the "good guy" team too. We are good guys, but as our leadership has stated, we are addicted to oil, and addicts make bad decisions. Just keep an open mind, and try to see these things though the perspectives of others as well.

    To apply the concepts that I presented a few months ago in the paper on "Populace-Centric Engagement" the course I would offer is that we need to be much more tuned in to the needs, will and requirements of populaces like those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and take a much firmer line with their governments, using a full bag of carrots and sticks to put more effort to getting them to evolve their governments in ways that give their entire populaces more voice, and less effort on turning a blind eye to that in order to gain their support for GWOT related issues, or out of fear that they would somehow stop selling us oil.

    Americans all wish that the Middle East would change how it views us. I suggest that the critical first step is changing how we view them. The Cold War lens we view them through gets a little cloudier every day.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Still valid. By following the back trail of the "foreign fighters" (more accurately, young men who are frustrated with their own governance and opportunity at home, but who feel they are unable to act out to effect change yet on the home front).
    I think you are giving way to much credit to the political motivation of the "young men." That probably does exist, but as or more important is just the restlessness and violent tendencies of young men. Just about any half-baked political theory is going to be enough to get them to doing what young men are so prone to do anyway, be violent.

    The underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber and many of the people going from the UK and US to Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia weren't frustrated by political helplessness at home. They have more opportunity to affect political change in the US and UK than anywhere. The underwear bomber was a rich kid whose family had real influence at home. He and the others just picked something to be upset about and somebody else took advantage of it.

    Similar thing with many of the imported suicide bombers. They weren't the most politically sophisticated. They were the isolated losers.

    There are a lot of things that motivate these guys but to focus on political grievances is give them a certain false nobility and to miss something as important, the violent nature of youth and violent movements that take advantage of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    5. The Saudi and Egyptian populaces fully recognize that they have no real hope of resolving their issues of poor governance at home until they can break the support of the U.S. in the region in general, and to their governments in particular. This is a critical point to understand. Young Saudi and Egyptian men see phase one to successful nationalist insurgency at home to be this breaking of U.S. support to two governments that have very little in common with the principles that the U.S. holds so dear.
    I wonder if this has observation has been overtaken by events or was flawed in an Arab world sense to begin with. The Tunisians did pretty good without us interfering much. I think the jury is still out on Egypt but we didn't do much except watch. Libyans threw off a tyranny that wasn't supported by the US and in fact did it with US help. The Syrians are keeping up the fight against a tyranny that is hostile to the US and has been for years. It seems to be that Arab tyrannies stand or fall pretty much on their own ability to keep power and our support or money doesn't have a whole lot to do with it.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Interview-based studies of foreign fighter motivation yield little or no evidence to suggest that breaking US support for the home country government is a significant motivation. The motivation cited is consistently of the "expel the infidel from the land of the faithful" variety. It's also hard to ignore the reality that foreign fighters have been effectively recruited from countries where the government was not supported by the US, such as Syria and pre-revolution Libya, and the foreign fighters have been successfully recruited from all of these countries to fight in wars that had nothing to do with the home country government, such as the resistance to Soviet-era Afghanistan.

    This theory seems to me to be unsupported by any evidence, and it's a dangerous theory: it suggests that al we have to do to de-motivate foreign fighters and terrorists is to fix the governments of Saudi Arabia et al. This we cannot do, and trying would make a huge mess and likely give us a great deal more terrorism.

    US military intervention in Muslim countries motivates foreign fighters and provides them with a target. Easiest way to manage that is less intervention, and certainly less occupation, which provides enduring motivation and static targets.

    We deceive ourselves if we pretend that these problems were created by meddling and that they can be resolved by good meddling. The answer to bad meddling isn't good meddling, it's less meddling.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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