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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs