Number of Europeans Fighting in Syria Rapidly Growing

European security officials

have said
that the number of Europeans who have headed to Syria
to fight with Assad’s opposition has been rapidly growing.
According to Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet, the number
of Europeans who have traveled to Syria to fight in the civil war
“is estimated at between, more or less, 1,500 and 2,000 people,
based on what we’ve heard from our colleagues.”

The Washington Post
notes, this figure is more than
double the number U.S. intelligence officials
released in November

The concern is that Europeans who are fighting with the jihadist
elements within Assad’s opposition could return to carry out
terrorist attacks in their home country. An article published in

The Wall Street Journal
this week says that British and
French authorities “recently made several terror-related arrests of
individuals suspected of links to Syria.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Chairman of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence, says that he is going to be
losing some sleep thinking about the number of Westerners fighting
in Syria who are being trained for “external operations.”

The Washington Times

“Al Qaeda core … is saying, ‘We have so many Westerners who have
showed up, who we’re training, who we are putting through their
paces … we’re giving combat experience to that we are ready to do
external operations,’” the Michigan Republican said. “I don’t know
about the rest of you; that’s going to cost me about a week’s
nights sleep.”

Those Westerners have passports from their home countries to
which they eventually will return, Mr. Rogers said at a conference
in Washington hosted by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
International Studies and Al-Monitor, a media site focused on the
Middle East.

The influence of jihadist groups within rebel forces have some
members of Assad’s opposition concerned. Earlier this week,

The Independent
reported that the commander of the
Free Syrian Army “is prepared to join regime troops in the future
to drive out al-Qa’ida-linked extremists who have taken over
swathes of rebel-held territories.”

That the commander of the Free Syrian Army is open to a
partnership with the Assad regime in the future in order to fight
jihadists is an indication not only of the influence Al
Qaeda-linked groups are having on the conflict in Syria but also
how the Assad regime could take advantage of assistance to rebel

from Hit & Run

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