WASHINGTON, D.C — Many of the estimated 250 Americans who have traveled overseas since 2011 to join or try to join the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) have been able to reenter the United States without being arrested or monitored, reveals a report issued by the House Homeland Security Committee.
The report does not provide any additional information on the “several dozen” Americans who have snuck back into the U.S.
The 66-page report states:
Over 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to the battlefield to enlist with Islamist terrorist groups, including at least 4,500 Westerners. More than 250 individuals from the United States have also joined or attempted to fight with extremists in the conflict zone.
“These fighters pose a serious threat to the United States and its allies. Armed with combat experience and extremist connections, many of them are only a plane-flight away from our shores,” it adds. “Even if they do not return home to plot attacks, foreign fighters have taken the lead in recruiting a new generation of terrorists and are seeking to radicalize Westerners online to spread terror back home.”
The foreign fighters who have traveled to join ISIS come from more than 100 countries.
“Of the hundreds of Americans who have sought to travel to the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq, authorities have only interdicted a fraction of them,” the report acknowledges. “Several dozen have also managed to make it back into America.”
The House panel noted that several Americans were identified and apprehended trying to return to the United States while others are being monitored.
“The findings are concerning; we are losing in this struggle to keep Americans from the battlefield,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) said Tuesday after the report was released.
In the report, Chairman McCaul’s committee accused the Obama administration of lacking a strategy to prevent the flow of Americans to Iraq and Syria, identify those who attempt to return to engage in terrorism, or cope with new recruitment methods and technology that allow ISIS to disseminate its propaganda.
Rep. John Katko (R-NY), who co-authored the report, said the radicalization of Americans via the Internet “poses probably the biggest problem” for U.S. law enforcement and others trying to detect and combat the recruitment efforts of jihadists groups who target Americans.
“Research also finds attacks conducted by returnees are more deadly than those carried out by homegrown extremists. These worries have materialized in the United States this year, as several American returnees have been arrested and charged by authorities,” notes the report.
“However, American returnees are not the only threat to the United States. Other Western citizens in the conflict zone—from dozens of countries—can travel easily to U.S. territory without applying for a visa, including most European jihadists,” it adds. “European security officials estimate 20 to 30 percent of their foreign fighters have already departed Syria and Iraq.”