Putting a stop to the flow of foreign recruits joining the Islamic State will require a long-term strategy that could take years, according to a U.S. Army general.
Lt. Gen. Michael Nagata, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center’s Directorate for Strategic Operational Planning, tempered expectations for a quick solution to ISIS’s foreign recruitment efforts, noting an effective strategy will require intelligence sharing, in addition to national and international collaboration and strategic patience.
“We are not going to end this threat this year,” said Nagata, while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Wednesday, as reported by DOD news. “I don’t think we can identify a time horizon within which we will somehow contain and eliminate the ISIS-related foreign terrorist fighter problem. We can, if we do this properly we will, but it will take years to solve this problem.”
To combat the problem, the global community has engaged in a two phase response. First, was “simply recognizing we had a problem,” said Nagata. Second, was the sharing of intelligence so the identities of foreign fighters are “broadly known as possible everywhere in the world.”
The coalition of forces participating in Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led mission against ISIS, has made some progress in cutting off ISIS’s recruitment, particularly through the porous Turkish border. That said, Nagata warned that ISIS is still inspiring foreign fighters to travel to places other than Iraq and Syria to join the terrorist group, and simply defeating its land army won’t stop the foreign fighter threat.
Approximately 40,000 foreign fighters from at least 120 countries have traveled to join the conflict in Iraq and Syria, according to Nagata.
“It is probably the most ethnically diverse, sociologically diverse, non-monolithic … foreign fighter problem we have seen, so far,” he said, adding that it is “inarguably the largest foreign fighter challenge the world has seen in the modern age.”
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