The numbers of foreigners travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight for the so-called Islamic State has dramatically diminished.
The drop in foreign recruits — coming from Europe, North Africa, Asia, and elsewhere — indicate the Salafi jihadist militant group is losing its appeal.
It is likewise indicative of the situation in Syria and Iraq where Islamic State is losing ground. The drop in numbers is also a result of international efforts to stop recruits traveling to the war-zone.
Citing U.S. intelligence assessments, The Washington Post said on September 9 that a monthly peak of 2,000 wannabe fighters crossing the Turkey-Syria border to join the Islamic State and other extremist groups has now dropped to as few as 50 per month.
“It’s a massive falloff,” said Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, according to The Washington Post. “And it’s basically because Islamic State is a failing entity now. The appeal of Islamic State rested on its strength and its winning. Now that it’s losing, it’s no longer attractive.”
The Soufan Group, an international security consulting firm, said in December 2015 that “between 27,000 and 31,000 people have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State and other violent Salafist groups from at least 86 countries.”
These figures are still being quoted in the media.
See this VICE News video for an opposing look of foreigners who are actually fighting Islamic State:
One former Islamic State fighter, Bobodzhon Karaboev, was one of 1,000 people from the central Asian nation of Tajikistan who joined the group. He regrets joining up and managed to escape.
“I still don’t understand it today [why I joined], I really didn’t know what I was doing. They made me promises, but the reality was very different,” Karaboev told Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster.
“Everything they told me beforehand was a lie, total rubbish,” said Karaboev.
“They said they were acting in the name of the Koran, in the name of Allah, but they just used that for their own means.”
Karaboev said he now wanted to tell people not to join the jihad group.
“They all speak in the name of Islam, but they are not Muslims, they just want to exploit you for their own purpose,” said Karaboev.
Don’t believe them, live your life, and don’t ruin it.”
With Turkish forces recently driving Islamic State militants from land they occupied on the Syria-Turkey border the drop in the foreign recruits can only continue.
That and news that Russia and the U.S. will work together to fight Islamic State and another main group, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, will only increase pressure on the militants.
While commentators say a drop in recruits will of course hamper Islamic State’s ability to wage war in the region, it could bring with it unwelcome consequences by moving the war into a new stage. Meaning, it could result in battle hardened Islamic State veterans — carrying foreign passports — returning home to wage jihad.
The idea of radicalized militants returning to countries — some already hit by terrorist attacks by Islamic State supporters — poses daunting national security questions in countries already terrified by such prospects.
Watch Karaboev’s full interview with DW (English) here: