Westerners join Syrian rebels, create terrorist threat at home

Westerners are traveling to Syria to fight for the rebels, but when they return they become terrorist threats at home. Photo: Westerners training to fight in Syria. (AP)

CHARLOTTE, July 28, 2013 — New reports suggest young Westerners are increasingly traveling to Syria via Turkey to join the rebels in their efforts to oust Bashar al-Assad, creating a potential jihadist threat when they return to the United States. 

Eric Schmidtt reported in the New York Times yesterday that Westerners want to join the Syrian rebellion to “help the people suffering there” but often succomb to “jihadist zeal.”

SEE RELATED: Free Syrian Army likely to get US arms: Who is this rebel group?

Schmidtt quoted Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew G. Olsen, saying, “Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world. The concern going forward from a threat perspective is there are individuals traveling to Syria, becoming further radicalized, becoming trained and then returning as part of really a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and, potentially, to the United States.”

This is an ideal example of how foreign policy can be incorporated to minimize the threat of global jihad before it happens. Far too often the United States is reactive rather than proactive in efforts to reduce terrorist activity. In this situation however, preparation and awareness could go a long way toward eliminating a problem before it develops.

Official reports claim that more Westerners are currently fighting in Syria than were involved in previous uprisings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. The majority of the participants are from nine European countries, most of which already have significant internal increases in their own Muslim populations.

Estimates are that only about a dozen Americans have made the trip to join Syrian rebels. While this is a relatively small number, it represents 12 potential threats to US security when they return to America. The time to identify and track such persons of interest is now. This is not a matter of profiling. It’s just plain old common sense.

SEE RELATED: Syrian rebels attack Shiite shrines and threaten Christian monasteries

To do nothing reinforces the inadequacies of efforts by the government to deal with a growing threat of terrorist activity that is increasing exponentially.

Speaking at a security conference in Aspen, Colo., the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew G. Olsen, told listeners that Syria is now the dominant jihadist battlefield in the world. Middle East watchers already know that hot spot venues for terrorism change quickly in the region, but if Syria is the site du jour, then that is where our focus should be.

Said Olsen, “The concern going forward from a threat perspective is there are individuals traveling to Syria, becoming further radicalized, becoming trained and then returning as part of a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and, potentially, to the United States.”

Already Western European countries are making contingency plans to deal with the situation following whatever results take place in Syria. But make no mistake, Western Europe is nothing more than a staging point for the brass ring across the Atlantic called the United States.

Many Western fighters are “self-radicalized” but that term is misleading. All it really means is an individual has internally planted the seeds of jihadi discontent without having a thorough and complete indoctrination as to what the movement entails.

Only after they receive intense brainwashing of Islamic fundamentalism combined with knowledge of weaponry and explosives and an unfailing allegiance to the cause do these jihadist wannabes become capable of terrorist strikes to the extreme.

According to Schmitt, some 30 French fighters have already returned home from Syria. In the process, French authorities detained most of them for extended questioning before being released. France passed a law last year allowing charges to be brought against citizens who journey to combat zones in other countries where terrorist groups are involved or where there are terrorist training camps.

The U.S. would do well to implement a similar program.

Manuel Valls, the Interior Minister of France, referred to the Syrian threat, which is said to be on a significantly larger scale than any previous emigration, as “a ticking time bomb.”

European countries are not taking the situation lightly. Presently surveillance efforts and contingency plans are being increased at a significant rate.

While an abundance of controversial debates rage throughout the U.S., including several “phony” scandals which President Obama is spending inordinate amounts of time to downplay, there is no denying the unsettling events taking place in Egypt and Syria.

Rather than waste our efforts at playing politics and laying blame, would it not be more productive to recognize a potential terrorist threat now and eliminate it before it happens?

Such an endeavor would be a more prudent approach than waiting for the next series of unnecessary innocent American deaths to occur before condemning the action with angry, meaningless rhetoric.

The time for complacency is over. Rather than pat-down little old ladies and babies in strollers after the next plane is hijacked, why not pay attention to the places like Syria where the cancer has the potential to grow and stop it before it starts?



About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events and the people and cultures around the globe. He is foundrt of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime. Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at The Washington Times Communities

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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