News / Middle East

Foreign Fighters in Syria a Potential Security Problem in Other Countries

Foreign Fighters in Syria a Potential Security Problem in Other Countriesi
X
July 30, 2013 10:26 PM
The Assad government in Syria is facing tough opposition from rebels who have been joined by militants from other countries. These foreign fighters provide firepower to the rebels but experts say they may fight in other countries after the civil war in Syria is over. VOA’s Kokab Farshori reports on what this means for international efforts to control terrorist groups.
Kokab Farshori
The Assad government in Syria is facing tough opposition from rebels who have been joined by militants from other countries.  These foreign fighters provide firepower to the rebels but experts say they may fight in other countries after the civil war in Syria is over.

Crossing borders to fight alongside local militants is not new. The Soviet Union faced foreign fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and more recently, the U.S. faced them in Iraq.

 Former CIA official Paul Pillar says the foreign fighters in Syria may eventually  cause instability in other parts of the region and the world.  

"You look at the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, which went on about a decade.  That spawned militants and militant groups that went on to be active in many different places around the world.  So there’s no reason to expect that Syria is going to be anything different.  We have people, militants who acquire skills, acquire inspiration, acquire some organization, and that’s not going to go away once the dust settles in Syria," said Pillar.

Pillar says in many instances, people joining conflicts like the one in Syria may not have been militant before, but once they become battle-hardened, they can cause instability in their own countries.

"This is something that, for example, Saudi officials have worried about for a long time, as well as the other Gulf Arab countries, where they have had their own nationals go to fight in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and now some of them in Syria," he said.

The 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, with 19 US serviceman killed,  is often cited as an example of how those inspired by foreign fighters have carried out terror attacks in their own countries.  

Analysts say Syria is providing the opportunity now for mostly Sunni Muslims to go abroad and fight. Stephen Tankel is a counterterrorism expert at American University in Washington.

"This is one of the reasons, quite frankly, that the U.S. is reluctant to become involved in Syria along with a host of others, is that you’ve already got an open front, but the U.S. presence could draw even more groups to that front," said Tankel.

There is also the issue of who to arm among the anti-Assad forces.  Stephen Tankel says the options are limited.

"The Obama administration is seeking ways to support the rebels who are not al-Qaida.  And that is a process that has been ongoing, looking at how they can get weapons into the hands of those whom they want to support and keep them out of the hands of those they don’t.  Of course, there’s only so many steps you can take, and once those weapons get onto the battlefield, it becomes much more difficult to control them," he said.

While the international community is focused on finding a political solution to the war in Syria, experts in Washington believe officials should be working on plans to deal with the armed groups once the conflict is over.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid