Countering Terrorism from the Second Foreign Fighter Glut

Countering Terrorism from the Second Foreign Fighter Glut

by Clint Watts, Small Wars Journal

Countering Terrorism from the Second Foreign Fighter Glut (Full PDF Article)

Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which ended in early 1989, created a glut of foreign fighters, who found themselves unwanted by their home/source countries and restless for another Jihadi campaign. This First Foreign Fighter Glut" spawned al-Qa'ida (AQ) and a decade of increasingly lethal terrorist attacks leading up to September 11, 2001.

Today, Western nations face a smaller, more lethal threat resulting from the Second Foreign Fighter Glut." As major conflicts in Iraq and later Afghanistan diminish in scale, a new generation of former foreign fighters will sit idle in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The future success of AQ hinges on its recruitment process in which former foreign fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan guide the recruitment and production of future foreign fighters who will conduct regional and global terrorist attacks. Left unchecked, the Second Foreign Fighter Glut will produce the next generation of terrorist organizations and attacks much as the First Foreign Fighter Glut fueled AQ.

Current Western counterterrorism (CT) strategies, largely overshadowed by counterinsurgencies (COIN) in Iraq and Afghanistan, place great emphasis on eliminating the supply of foreign fighters at their intended targets. These strategies fail to adequately mitigate the demand for jihad by young recruits in foreign fighter source countries.

Countering Terrorism from the Second Foreign Fighter Glut (Full PDF Article)

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This article didn't raise much interest upon release. Well researched, well written, states the party line well. No problem, right?

Actually, it is just such flawed conclusions as stated in this article that I believe actually CONTRIBUTING to making terrorism worse. Not that there is not a defininte, and productive role for effective, ruthless, covert CT operations; but that to use them to merely suppress the populaces of some of the most oppressive regimes in the world is wrong-headed at best.

There are a variety of organizations that study human rights around the world, and the following link is just one such recent product:

http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/WoW09/WOW%202009.pdf

When one cross references the following three factors one starts to paint a picture of a perfect storm:

States ranked as "not free" or only "partly free"; that are also

Strongly influenced by outside, Western support in terms of shaping or sustaining the current governance; and that

Are providers of "foreign fighters."

To simply chalk up foreign fighters to a combination of poor conditions at home and the evil efforts of UW conducting non-state organizations such as AQ to "radicalize" them is to believe that the Pied Piper is more than just a fairy tale to the degree that one would base their foreign policy on the premise it is based upon.

This goes to what I see as the importance of distinguishing the concepts of "Responisbility" and "Fault." Politicians need to have the moral courage to stand up and take responsibility for actions that contribute to terrorism without fear that that opponents will accuse them a claiming that it is our fault. Of course your political opponents will make such claims, and of course those claims are groundless. 9/11 is not the fault of the US government; but the US government will also never effective deal with the conditions that give rise to such attacks untill we are willing to take responsibility for how the manifestation of years of US foreign policy contributed not just to the conditions that give rise to such acts, but in building a logical trail back to our doorstep that allows people to reasonably believe that the solution to their problems relies upon harming us first.