An estimated 15,000 militants from at least 80 nations are believed to have entered Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad according the CIA and studies by ISCR and The Soufan Group. Many of these fighters are believed to have joined units that are now part of the Islamic State. Western officials are concerned about what these individuals may do upon returning to their native countries.
According to the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, at least 330 Pakistani youth have already left for Syria to join the hard-line Islamic State to help overthrow Asad’s government. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan led by Fazlullah has declared allegiance to the Islamic State. Fazlullah freely operates across the border, kept out only by the current Pakistan military operation in FATA. However, the free movement of the Afghan Taliban into Pakistan threatens to undercut the gains of Zarb-i-Azb.
Observers believe the bigger threat could come from middle class Pakistani youth returned from Europe and the US, with good computer skills and acceptance of the prevailing fatalist religious mind-set in Pakistan. While overseas, the cultural background of these young men made them recoil against liberal, Western values, including the ubiquitous presence of women. Finding themselves at home amidst a failing economy and exposed to religious fatalism, they are prime candidates for `jihad,’ be it in Afghanistan or Syria.
International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ISCR), The Soufan Group, CIA. Gene Thorp, Julie Tate and Swati Sharma. Published on October 11, 2014, 6:44 p.