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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid