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Homeland Security

Foreign Fighters Stream to Syria Despite US Campaign Against Islamic State

RIA Novosti

18:12 31/10/2014

MOSCOW, October 31 (RIA Novosti) – Over 1,000 foreign fighters have come to Syria every month despite US-led efforts to destroy the Islamic State (IS), the Washington Post reports, citing US intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

The US, assisted by several countries both from the Middle East and elsewhere, launched an aggressive campaign in August against the radical Sunni group, which controls large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria. However, these efforts have not affected the number of radicals keen on joining the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations operating in Syria. The campaign has neither prevented Islamists from entering the country, nor provoked more radicals to join the fighting. It "has probably discouraged some people and encouraged others," said Andrew Liepman, a counterterrorism expert at Rand Corp., as quoted by the Washington Post.

"The flow of fighters making their way to Syria remains constant, so the overall number continues to rise," a US intelligence official, who wished to remain anonymous, told the newspaper.

Over 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries are estimated to be taking part in the Syrian civil war. Many more are expected to come. "I don't think 15,000 really scratches the surface yet," Andrew Liepman asserted. A UN Security Council report obtained by the Guardian confirms this assessment. It warns that the inflow of foreign fighters into Syria is unprecedented. "Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 – and are growing," states the report, as quoted by the Guardian.

The majority of those fighting in Syria come from the Arab world, notably Tunisia. Of the estimated 12,000 foreign fighters present in the country in September only approximately 3,000 hailed from Western countries, according to BBC.

The Syrian civil war has been raging since 2011. Radical groups, such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, have been aggressively recruiting foreigners to assist in their fight against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

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