The number of U.S. citizens attempting to travel to the Islamic State is down to approximately one or none a month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein revealed in a Wednesday speech.
Rosenstein contrasted the current rate of arrests to the 2014 and 2015 when the number was approximately “six to ten per month,” crediting the terrorist group’s battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria for the decline. The decline in U.S. terrorists leaving for Iraq and Syria mirrors the trend in Europe where “the overall number of departed foreign terrorist fighters originating from Western European and Balkan countries declined significantly in 2016 from the previous year,” the Department of State revealed in late July.
The deputy attorney general cautioned that while the decline in would-be travelers is down the domestic terror threat could actually increase. “Some people who would have left America now pose a danger here instead. Some foreign fighters have left ISIS territory to find new battlefields and new targets. Others have returned to their home countries. Returning foreign fighters can present significant security risks because of their ideology, combat training, and connections to terrorist networks,” he explained.
Returning ISIS fighters remain a major concern of counter-terrorism authorities as the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces encroach on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria. The State Department also noted that nearly 30 percent of European foreign fighters for the Islamic State have returned to the continent in recent months, many of whom are not on the radar of security services.
The Europe based International Center for Counter-Terrorism noted in April 2016 that, while some foreign fighters returning to Europe may be disillusioned with the terrorist group, “others may return with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks, with reports suggesting that IS may systematically export terror cells to Europe.”
Many EU citizens are also eligible to enter the U.S. without scrutiny for 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program.
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