The report characterizes a range of "push" and "pull" factors that propel the fighters, and notes that the reasons many record are similar to those that motivated the thousands of people who have left their home countries to fight for ISIS.
WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – A new report estimates that more than 1 in 3 foreign fighters combatting ISIS and other radical Islamist groups such as the formerly called Jabhat al-Nusra in Iraq and Syria are Americans, and many of them are veterans.
The report released Monday by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that of the anti-ISIS fighters recorded from 26 countries around the world, 114 of 300, or 38 percent, of them hailed from the U.S. The report notes that it could only record the nationalities of 277 of the 300 fighters.
Most of the 300 are serving in Kurdish militias in Iraq or Syria, while a “handful” are fighting with other groups such as Hezbollah, the Free Syrian Army and various Shiite militias, according to the report.
The report is based on a database of 300 foreign anti-ISIS fighters compiled by the institute from open sources such as news reports and social media. The report cautions that “the database represents a sample rather than a comprehensive register of all anti-ISIS fighters.”
The report characterizes a range of “push” and “pull” factors that propel the fighters, and notes that the reasons many record are similar to those that motivated the thousands of people who have left their home countries to fight for ISIS — the search for a sense of belonging and meaning in their lives, or dissatisfaction with the way the international community has responded to conflicts in the Middle East.
“The primary grievance relates to atrocities being committed against civilians, with many accusing world leaders of turning a blind eye to the ongoing suffering of those caught up in the conflict,” the report says, explaining why the anti-ISIS fighters join the battle.
The report notes that, “ex-military veteran fighters are also motivated by a desire to ‘finish the job’ and ensure previous sacrifices were not in vain.”
“We occupied this land and left before they even had an air force. Today these kinds of atrocities are being committed and our governments are pretty much letting it happen,” the report quotes Jordan Matson, 28, as saying, an American who served in a noncombat role in the U.S. Army and joined the YPG.
Still others are motivated by a desire to protect persecuted minorities that they feel connected to whether by ethnicity or religion, the report says. And others feel the pull to simply “fight against evil.”
The State Department has “strongly discouraged” Americans from traveling to Iraq or Syria to fight ISIS.
“Individuals who demonstrate an interest in groups opposing ISIL, including on social media, could open themselves to being targeted by ISIL itself if those individuals travel to Syria,” the State Department’s Syria travel warning reads. “The U.S. government does not support this activity, and our ability to provide consular assistance to individuals who are injured or kidnapped, or to the families of individuals who die as a result of taking part in the conflict, is extremely limited.”
Though the individuals in the report are characterized as foreign fighters, many of them never see combat, according to the report.
“Often, inexperienced new recruits are engaged in low-level, menial tasks and are made to bide their time away from the action … Those with military experience or a particular set of skills can act as trainers to local fighters and militias, or provide specialist tactical, logistical or medical support,” the report reads.