The U.S. is losing the battle to stop Americans from traveling abroad to enlist in ISIS, a bipartisan congressional task force concluded in a report released Tuesday.
More than 25,000 foreigners have flocked to war-torn Syria and Iraq since 2011 to fight with Islamist terrorist groups including ISIS, according to U.S. government estimates noted in the report.
“Despite concerted efforts to stem the flow, we have largely failed to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists,” the task force determined in its report.
In just the last nine months, more than 7,000 foreign fighters have swelled the ranks of those radical militant groups waging war and committing atrocities in Iraq and Syria. And while most recruits continue to come from the Middle East and North Africa, thousands of Westerners have traveled to fight in the region — including more than 250 Americans, more than half of which have left in the last year.
Those figures prompted the eight-member task force, commissioned by the House Homeland Security Committee and including three House Democrats, to call for an overhaul of the U.S. strategy to stem the flow and threat of foreign fighters in what the task force called “the largest global convergence of jihadists in history.”
“We have to have a strategy to deal with this: both a military strategy abroad, a political solution, but also a prevention strategy here in the United States to prevent this threat,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference announcing the reports conclusions Tuesday.
The report’s release Tuesday comes as President Barack Obama is chairing a summit at the United Nations on how to counter ISIS and the threat of extremism worldwide.
Federal officials have ramped up their efforts to stop and arrest individuals inspired by ISIS to either travel to Syria and Iraq or carry out attacks on U.S. soil, but gaps still remain. Of the more than 250 American who sought to travel to Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials caught just 28 before they could make it to the region, according to the task force’s report.
The task force also estimated that women account for more than 30 of the 250-plus Americans who have traveled to join extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: CNN, Jeremy Diamond