/ For the Register
Published: Dec. 12, 2013 Updated: 5:28 p.m.
Dozens of Americans have tried to join Islamist rebel groups in
officials. They sought to join the estimated 6,000 to 8,000 foreign fighters. U.S.
Approximately 2,000 of their number are European. It is easy for these foreign fighters to reach
Syria: international flights bring them to , where
there are training camps exclusively for European recruits. From there, they
easily slip across the border. Such numbers are troubling, because they
represent a serious threat to the West when they return from their jihad in the
Turkey Middle East.
The threat is not only to the West;
faces a similar problem. An Uzbek Salafist in Russia Turkey
uses the Internet to recruit in Europe, North America, Russia and Central Asia,
according to EurasiaNet. Radical Kyrgyz in Moscow
were recruited for the struggle by North Caucasians.
Members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have left their fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan
to go to .
While the number of Central Asians is still small, they have become more
prominent in jihadist groups like al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra. One
press report says the “most dangerous and barbaric” of the al-Qaida fighters
are 250 Chechens in the suburbs of Syria . Aleppo
The group with the largest number of fighters is the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams, also known as
ISIS. This group has achieved
notoriety for fighting as much against other rebels as against government
forces. They recently seized the northern Syrian town of from a rival rebel unit, by seizing
the bakery, intimidating the police and beheading those who opposed them. “The
executions are designed to make maximum impact,” said activist Firas Ahmad.
Jihadists have also kidnapped Kurdish rebel fighters and Orthodox nuns. Most
recently, the Termanin U.S. government
announced on Thursday that they were suspending delivery of non-lethal aid to
rebels in Northern Syria because of the
reports of the Islamists' seizure of territory from the Free Syrian Army.
ISIS now control many of the supply lines by which Western
powers are trying to resupply other rebel groups. In areas along the border
with Turkey in Aleppo and Idlib, the ISIS
is also seizing territory held by other hard-line Islamist units, reports the
Lebanese Daily Star. Their commander, who goes by the nickname al-Jazaeri, said
they had learned their lesson in other conflicts. “Our mistake as mujahidin is
that we were preoccupied with fighting [Moammar] Gadhafi and did not pay enough
attention to how to hold onto territory,” he told Reuters.
The result is a large swath of territory in the heart of the
under the control of al-Qaida affiliated groups. This area has come to resemble
Islamic schools, training camps and burka-clad women. The threat from these
groups, many identified as terrorist organizations, is a common thread that
unites Afghanistan Russia and America going into the Jan. 22 conference talks. The superpowers had
appeared to be waging a proxy war in Geneva Syria,
with Russia and Iran supporting President Bashar al-Assad
against rebels backed by the United States,
Saudi Arabia and . Recent
meetings, however, show that these alignments are no longer true. Turkey
U.S. accepted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov's suggestion of foregoing military action in favor of 's
decommissioning of its chemical weapons stockpile. With indications that the
Dec. 31 deadline for the removal of 30 tons of chemicals might not be met
because the road to the coast might not be safe for transport, there are no
renewed American threats. Instead, quiet diplomacy seems the order of the day. Syria
Last week, British and American officials met in
with non al-Qaida Islamist groups. While refusing to name which groups with
which he had met, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said it was important to learn the
long-term plans of the organizations. Other officials said the purpose of the
meeting was to encourage them to join in the Geneva II peace talks. It would
appear that the al-Qaida threat is uniting the international community in
unanticipated ways. Ankara
James J. Coyle is a professor and the director of Global Education at Chapman University and Chair of the Eurasian Committee of� the Pacific Council on International Policy.� He has been involved with Middle� Eastern affairs for over 30 years.