Af-Pak said to attract fewer foreign fighters for jihad

Afghan-Pakistan is attracting fewer foreign fighters following Bin Laden's death, US drones and lack of funds.


Afp February 09, 2012

PARIS: The Afghan-Pakistan jihad is attracting fewer foreign fighters following the death of Osama bin Laden, the growing threat posed by US drones, and lack of funds, Western security officials say.

While no precise figure is available, it would appear that the number of would-be jihadists from abroad has been drying up, according to one security official who declined to be named.

However, more Pakistanis are willing to take up the fight and make up the numbers, he also warned.

“Over the past six months, young Frenchmen there have nearly all left Pakistan. There were 20 to 30 of them, who had either converted (to Islam) or had links to the Maghreb; today there are hardly any left,” he said.

“Other European countries whose nationals used to go to Pakistan to join the jihad have drawn the same conclusion – a drastic reduction over recent months,” he added.

The “Arab Spring” revolts also acted as a magnet, with a number of jihadists moving to Libya to join the fight to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power, he said.

“Fighting in Afghanistan is also less attractive because of the idea that the Afghan taliban want to concentrate more on home fighting and that world jihad is less and less their cup of tea,” he added.

For Frank Cilluffo, who co-authored “Foreign Fighters” for the Homeland Security Policy Institute, “first and foremost, military actions, including the use of drones, has made the environment less hospitable to foreign fighters traveling to the region, by disrupting al Qaeda's (and associated entities') training camps and pipelines.”

Direct and indirect accounts by jihadists also speak of disarray within al Qaeda in northwestern Pakistan where activists avoid coming together for fear of being attacked and whose weapons training now takes place indoors because of aerial and satellite surveillance.

In a report, entitled “Militant Pipeline” describing the links between the northwestern Pakistani frontier and the West, researcher Paul Cruickshank quotes one Ustadh Ahmad Faruq, described as a Pakistan-based al Qaeda spokesman who recently acknowledged his network's difficulties.

“The freedom we enjoyed in a number of regions has been lost. We are losing people and lack resources. Our land is being squeezed and drones fly over us,” he reportedly said in an audio cassette.

“It's difficult to have reliable figures,” on the number of foreign fighters, according to Cruickshank, who is a fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security.

“I think the drone strikes have been a major issue for the militants, the death of bin Laden is going to be a very big challenge as well. He was so important for a lot of these militants – he was the al Qaeda brand.

“By going over there they were joining his cause. The fact that he has been removed from the scene is likely to be a great recruiting challenge for al Qaeda,” he said.

“But the conflict is still going on in Afghanistan and in the radical circles it is still viewed as a very legitimate jihad. So it's likely that the number of volunteers is going to be diminished, but as long as there are US soldiers to fight, I don't think it's going to dry up entirely,” he added.

Hafiz Hanif, a 17-year-old Afghan who trained in northwest Pakistan, recently told Newsweek magazine the number of foreign fighters there was dwindling.

“When new people came they brought new blood, enthusiasm and money. All that has been lost. Now leaders seem to spend all their time moving from one place to another for their safety,” he said.

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COMMENTS (26)

US CENTCOM | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

This news signifies that our efforts are paying off. Terrorism has been a major force inhibiting progress in the region. Innocent people from Afghanistan and Pakistan have been suffering because of it. This war was not like any other war… It was against a particular group that was all bent on destroying the peace of this planet. Al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world had gathered in Afghanistan and with the blessing of the then-rulers to carry out their agenda of death and destruction. Today the terrorist organization is in disarray, much of their leadership either killed or captured and the rest on the run. The success against them came with our close cooperation with Pakistan. We need to continue to work together to eliminate the rest of the terrorist organizations, so the people of the region are free from the fear of these ruthless terrorists who are depriving the region of a better and brighter future.

Maj David Nevers DET-United States Central Command www.centcom.mil/ur

David Salmon | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

@marty: The Iraq diversion caused the Afghanistan war to be put on hold, but I wonder if the Arab Spring would have occurred but for the example of democratic elections in Iraq?

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