Who is Sending Militants to Iraq? Hint, Initials are SA
Posted by Lorelei Kelly
Late last year, the Counter Terrorism Center at West Point received over 600 records from the Special Operations Command. This information about foreign fighters entering Iraq via Syria is known as the Sinjar Records, and was captured in the far North of Iraq near Syria. West Point authors Brian Fishman and Joseph Felter have taken the first step in analyzing the data dump from this cache in the report "Al Qaida's Foreign Fighters in Iraq"
The biographical information is jaw dropping in its banality: demographic clues like militant age ranging from 16-54, home phone numbers, job listings from doctors, engineers, students and teachers to massage therapist (!) hometowns in Morocco, Libya and Saudi Arabia. To truly understand the meaning of asymmetric threat is how many filled in the description of "role" as "suicide bomber".
This initial analysis reveals that Saudis made up the largest contingent of foreign fighters entering Iraq. (um, thanks again you guys!) Libyans were second (first if measured in percapita terms) and Syrians a distant third. In fact, after reading the report, Syria seems more like an opportunistic and thuggish travel agent than anything else.
The report highlights some key distinctions that organizations like TRACC have long pointed out, that criminal networks have different motivations, some are led by greed and others by blind ideology. Further, that detecting, monitoring, and probing the nexus of transnational criminal and terrorist operations can provide opportunities to disrupt global criminal activities and pre-empt terrorist operations. So we might be able to pick off the greedy ones and get some good information from them to boot; that the religious fundamentalists linked with Al Qaida can't deliver the practical needs of disgruntled citizens (like Iraqis) and one possible strategic advantage for us is to step in and fill the vacuum in basic services and human security when disllusionment sets in; that dealing with supply chain management is an important part of thwarting violent jihadists--because countries like Libya gladly ship their heavy breathing militants to Iraq just to get rid of them at home. So, we should be working with those countries and cooperating to the extent possible to help them address internal violence and promote rule of law (note: preventive and cooperative aid, including fresh and different kinds of security assistance is a huge albeit unheralded trend in policy circles in the DC defense wonk world..) The other striking result was the prevalence of students, and groups of students from the same hometowns...meaning that they are likely recruited together.
Per my earlier post on the defense budget. To me, this report is just another sign that we need to put everything on the budget table and do a thorough vetting of ends and means for our national security. (The House Armed Services Committee is requiring the armed services to do a roles and missions review this coming year, which is a good start, but don't expect revolutionary change to come from within the Pentagon) Civilians, are you listening? Anybody?....Anybody?