Increasing Number of Radicalized Western Muslims Heading for Syria


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According to reporting from The New York Times European and American intelligence officials believe there are more radical western Muslims fighting in Syria than there were in conflicts in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, raising concerns that once the Syrian civil war is is over some will return to carry out attacks in the U.S. and Europe.

From The New York Times:

Most of the Westerners are self-radicalized and are traveling on their own initiative to Turkey, where rebel facilitators often link them up with specific groups, terrorism experts say. Many have joined ranks with the Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front, which American officials have designated as a terrorist group.

"The scale of this is completely different from what we've experienced in the past," Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union's counterterrorism coordinator, said at the conference in Aspen.

Many of these radical western Muslims end up in the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group. This should be particularly worrying to western intelligence agencies and officials because the Obama administration is preparing to send weapons to some of Assad's opposition. Of course American officials do not want radical western Islamists to get a hold of American weapons, but given the situation in Syria it is impossible to guarantee that jihadists will not get American weapons.

Last month I wrote about a study released by Flashpoint Partners on the foreign Sunni rebels fighting in Syria. It is a scary but interesting illustration of how diverse the conflict in Syria is and the sorts of people we don't want to see with American military equipment.

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  1. Here’s your chance, Neocons! Sign up and be part of your very own Lincoln Brigade.

    1. Do we have a few old F-4’s still flying? Cause I might be interested in being part of a new Flying Tigers Unit.

      1. Somebody shot down an F-4 drone in Florida, so I suppose the answer must be yes.

  2. I thought that Obama and McCain agreed that these were “Freedom Fighters”. So what could go wrong?

  3. Western Muslims leaving for the Middle East to fight other Muslims: see, every cloud does have a silver lining.

    1. I think this is a good thing. The crazies are out of hair, at least temporarily and permanently if they die. Going over there makes it much easier to identify and spy on these persons of interest.

  4. Paging Charlie Wilson.

  5. Damn white Arabs, think they’re *so cool* with their RPGs and shit.

    Also, rebel facilitators routing people to groups? Will this be a new growth industry, placement services for fighting factions? “Hmm, you don’t seem radical enough for the Abolition of the Unfaithful, too radical for Kill Them With Kindness Plus Bullets, what about joining Enemies of the Enemies of Allah?”

    Sure would bring renewed meaning to the term “head-hunter.”

  6. So is this our generation’s Spanish Civil War?

    1. It could well be the first stage of a wider Sunni/Shiite conflict.

      1. Iraq would be the first stage. Plenty of outside Sunnis came in to fight that one, too.

        1. True, perhaps I should have said “next stage.”

      2. Maybe they should just get it over with, once and for all. Weren’t the Assassins Shiites trying to knock off Sunni leaders? Maybe someone should get pissed about that again.

        1. If you complete Assassins Creed within the hidden time limit, the 13th imam comes and asks you to go to Syria.

          It’s like The Last Starfighter, except instead of aliens it’s a crazy arab dude hiding in the storm drain.

      3. Howsabout: Could be a footnote in the centuries old Sunni/Shiite conflict?

        1. Or this century’s 30 year war.

  7. the sorts of people we don’t want to see with American military equipment.

    Don’t be silly; the only people American politicians don’t want to see with military equipment are American citizens not in the military.

  8. I’m kind of struggling with what sorts of unlibertarian travel restrictions would have to be imposed in order to prevent these people from leaving their current countries to go fight in Syria.

    Even if you think its a bad idea, what kind of State action are you proposing to put a stop to it?

  9. “There are more radical western Muslims fighting in Syria than there were in conflicts in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, raising concerns that once the Syrian civil war is is over some will return to carry out attacks in the U.S. and Europe.”

    Wasn’t there a risk of them carrying terrorist attacks when they were in the west?

    Regardless of the number of western Muslims in Syria, radical Islamists haven’t necessarily fared well in other countries post-Arab Spring. You can start by asking the Muslim Brotherhood how things are going for them, and then ask yourself why so many Islamic radicals ended up fleeing to Mali in the aftermath of the Libyan revolution.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t any risks associated with helping the rebels; I’m not even saying that there aren’t any downsides. That’s the way the real world works: there are downsides to everything and no men in white hats turbans. The question for me is still whether arming the rebels is in the best interests of the United States.

    Sometimes taking risks is in our best interests. No really!

  10. Violent radical Muslims are not a problem for America even the ones who come from America. Reason told me so months ago.

    1. Did Reason tell you so, or did they just point out the fact that there’s generally less than 10 deaths per year from terrorist attacks and leave it up to you to evaluate the threat?

  11. This makes a lot of sense dude.

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