Thirty percent of the foreign fighters who joined Islamic State’s ranks have returned home, according to a report by the Committee of the United Nations Security Council.
Despite the obvious threat posed by trained jihadis returning to their home countries, the U.N. report expresses a surprising lack of concern.
“Some returnees have left conflict zones after they were disappointed in ISIS and changed their minds about the conflict,” stated the report. “In the assessment of the member States, they are in the lower part of the spectrum of risk, while some persons have returned with the specific intention and the willingness to commit terrorist attacks, as evidenced by the attacks in Paris and Brussels.”
Attrition from the ISIS ranks comes as no surprise. The terrorist group has suffered massive losses in its “parent tumor” territory in Iraq and Syria. Most recently, the so-called caliphate lost control of the Syrian city of Manbij, which once served as a main processing center for foreign fighters.
Brett McGurk, the Department of State’s ISIS czar, estimated in June that the terrorist group has lost 47 percent of its territory in Iraq. Pentagon figures show around 10 percent of the group’s territory in Syria has been retaken, though that figure does not include recent victories. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, has estimated that ISIS now has only 15,000 active fighters, down from 60,000 since U.S. operations began.
Heavy losses in manpower and territory, in addition to cuts in pay and rations, have given foreign jihadis searching for paradise a heavy dose of reality. The terrorist group’s morale may be rapidly deteriorating, but it has not made it any less dangerous. As ISIS has lost territory, it has increasingly reverted back to its roots as a traditional terrorist organization, engaging in massive bombings across the globe.
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