Continuing on from my last post reference the Yousafzai and Moreau Newsweek article “Inside al Qaeda”, I was particularly interested in the foreign fighters Hanif encountered leading to…..
Key point #2: The distribution of foreign fighter recruits remains diverse but predictable.
In the beginning, it appears Hanif participated openly in the traditional AQ training program of monkey bars, weapons orientation and most importantly-bomb making. Hanif described the organization in good detail noting:
“The instructors were all Arabs, but the makeup of the class testified to how wide the appeal of Al Qaeda still remains: about 30 students of various nationalities—Chechens, Tajiks, Saudis, Syrians, and Turks, two Frenchmen of Algerian extraction, and three Germans, one of whom was European and the other two of Arabic or Turkish extraction. Hanif was the youngest, and the only Afghan. Most were in their late teens or 20s, a few were in their 30s, and one was a 50-year-old. A handful of the Turks, Uzbeks, and Chechens knew Arabic or Pashto and could translate for their countrymen.”
While only a small sample, this anecdote illustrates a routine pattern of foreign fighter recruits for each jihadi conflict: a core of Arab trainers with a group of young Arab newbies, a selection of recruits from countries in the region (this case, Pakistan, Tajikistan) and then the random small subset of disgruntled Westerners. My question for Afghanistan is whether they are drawing the same number of North African foreign fighter recruits as was seen in Iraq? My unscientific, anecdotal estimate is that North Africans have not flocked to Afghanistan with the same intensity as Iraq. If this is true, there may be a counterterrorism lesson to be researched and learned with respect to comparative recruitment appeal for young recruits.
My other interest pertains to the Germans. This echoes recent counterterrorism warnings and again suggests that Germany’s CVE approach, or lack there of, may be noteworthy and useful for determining future CVE do’s and don’t's.