by SWJ Editors
Countering Terrorism from the Second Foreign Fighter Glut
by Clint Watts, Small Wars Journal
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.