More Westerners are participating in Syria’s civil war than ever fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Somalia according to intelligence officials who spoke to the New York Times. Some worrisome statistics:
Classified estimates from Western intelligence services and unclassified assessments from government and independent experts put the number of fighters from Europe, North America and Australia who have entered Syria since 2011 at more than 600. That represents about 10 percent of the roughly 6,000 foreign fighters who have poured into Syria by way of the Middle East and North Africa.Most of the Westerners are self-radicalized and are traveling on their own initiative to Turkey, where rebel facilitators often link them up with specific groups, terrorism experts say. Many have joined ranks with the Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front, which American officials have designated as a terrorist group.
The longer this miserable, bloody war drags on, the more trained and radicalized jihadis will return to Middle Eastern and Western countries. We will then have a whole generation in which to contemplate the consequences of our inaction in Syria.[Khalidiyah district in Homs on July 28, 2013, courtesy Getty Images.]