disarm : recent material of interest on foreign fighters

I used to be a little boy/So old in my shoes/And what i choose is my choice/What’s a boy supposed to do?/The killer in me is the killer in you

For a moment, the Smashing Pumpkins had some tunes that were melancholy backed-up against a wall of white guitar noise; nothing that is likely to be on a foreign fighter ‘s play-list, even those of the Ask.fm / Instagram generation. The version of disarm by The Civil Wars is pared back to next to nothing, almost only the voices, giving the song a chilling quality.

A discussion (part I and part II h/t @UticensisRisk) on France 24 – in French – about foreign fighters included Abdelasiem El Difraoui, author of the excellent book, “Al-Qaida par l’image. La prophétie du martyre“, about al-Qaida propaganda. The discussion resumes the situation in France and touches on issues of networks, suggesting that the structured networks of the past are giving way to something more virtual and focused on small groups of friends and individual travellers. Alain Rodier suggests that the 700 French foreign fighter number does not quite add up and indicates why he thinks this is the case. Comments by an Imam from a Paris mosque confirm the divide between the Facebook foreign fighters and the Mosque-going populations in their conceptions of Syria, jihad and foreign fighting. They also suggest that the on-line discourse or conversation occurring on 2.0 web mediums about Syria has escaped the control (and comprehension?) of traditional religious authorities and structures. The comments by the father of the 15 year old French high-school student, who traveled to Syria recently, also demonstrates this disconnect, conceiving of his son’s choice as the result of ‘brainwashing’ and not engagement with a narrative, widely and easily available online, leading to making a choice about the acceptable use of violence. Some aspects of the internet and radicalisation are covered in a paper by Maura Conway, “From al-Zarqawi to al-Awlaki: The emergence and development of an online radical milieu”.  This gives some insight into the move from websites to web 2.0 and  discusses if the transition to violence is on-line or off-line.

The Daily Beast carries a fascinating article of a discussion between a former US Marine, Elliot Ackerman, and a Syrian previously involved in the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. The article has a number of interesting details on the Syrian’s activities in the Iraq insurgency as well as reflections on his involvement at that time. The question of why he is not fighting in the current conflict in Syria is also raised. PRI has an interview with another Syrian facilitator, active more recently, expressing regret about his involvement.

An older interview in The Nation with a Bosnia-era foreign fighter talks about the use of NGOs in the Bosnia, his views on role foreign fighters in Bosnia and Syria, and whether foreign fighters should be in Syria. It is an intriguing read whether or not one agrees with the opinions being voiced.

A new report from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) covers the foreign fighter issue in some depth pulling together in one place much of the recent reporting on numbers and groups. The Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies (CATS) at the Swedish National Defence College (SNDC) report, Preventing Violent Extremism in Third Countries, remains the most interesting one of recent months. It is a shame that only the summary is available in English. In amongst the footnotes of the report is a reference to, “Jihadi terrorism in the Netherlands: a description based on closed criminal investigations”, a document drawn up by Dutch researchers based on access to police files. Research is full of interesting tangents.