Foreign Fighters, Lone Wolves, and Combating Violent Extremists

By Dan Cadman on October 6, 2015

President Obama met with other nations' leaders, including the Russians and European Union member states, at the United Nations in New York to plot a strategy to deal with terrorism, most particularly the malevolent kind represented by the Islamic State (IS). From the sounds of it — with the exception of Vladimir Putin, who for better or worse has his game plan mapped out — the president and the others appear to be flailing about in the same ineffective way that the EU has been handling its migrant crisis (which is one of the outcomes of the West's mishandling of Syria's dissolution and the rise of IS).

Meanwhile, in Washington on the same day, the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee issued its bipartisan task force's final report on "Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel", and a deeply disturbing document it is. Here are the key findings of the report, as laid out by the Task Force:

  • Despite concerted efforts to stem the flow, we have largely failed to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists. 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 U.S. government lacks a national strategy for combating terrorist travel and has not produced one in nearly a decade.

  • Gaping security weaknesses overseas — especially in Europe — are putting the U.S. homeland in danger by making it easier for aspiring foreign fighters to migrate to terrorist hotspots and for jihadists to return to the West.

All of this comes against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into whether U.S. analysts and/or their bosses were doctoring intelligence reports to aid the White House by making U.S. efforts at combating IS look more effective than they actually are.

Even usually reliable media supporters of the White House such as CNN are casting a negative light over the administration's efforts to date, as well they should given this absolutely horrible collection of facts and events.

"Despite concerted efforts to stem the flow, we have largely failed to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists," the report states, outlining how over 7,000 foreign fighters have joined IS and other Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq in less than a year. At least 250 aspiring jihadists have traveled from the United States and, according to Andrea Mitchell on NBC's evening news on September 29, law enforcement officials know that at least 50 IS fighters have returned to this country.

Keep in mind that these are only the ones our government knows about; care to make any bets as to how comprehensive or complete either count is? Would you bet your life on their accuracy, or on the government's capacity to deal with them? Because that's pretty much what we're all being asked to do while they flow abroad, become battle-hardened and more extreme, and then return to apparently wander the streets at will.

So what, exactly, is the federal government's plan to deal with the IS returnees, and so-called "lone wolves" or other radicals seeking to carry out attacks on our people and facilities here at home? I'm glad you asked! Also last week, no doubt in preparation for the president's speech and appearance at the U.N., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a press release titled "Statement by Secretary Jeh C. Johnson on DHS's New Office for Community Partnerships", which said this in pertinent part:

Violent extremism — that which is inspired by foreign terrorist groups and that which is rooted in a range of domestic-based radical ideologies — pose a persistent and unpredictable threat to our homeland. Countering violent extremism has become a key focus of DHS's work to secure the homeland. Last year I appointed a Department-wide coordinator for our efforts to counter violent extremism. As Secretary of Homeland Security, I am also personally committed to this mission, having traveled to Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, northern Virginia and suburban Maryland to meet with community leaders as part of this effort. We heard many strongly held views, generated conversations, and built some bridges.

It is now time to take our efforts to the next level.

Today I announce the creation of the DHS Office for Community Partnerships. This Office will be dedicated to the mission of countering violent extremism, but its ultimate mission is as its name suggests — community partnerships. My charge to this Office, to be set forth in a more detailed plan, is to continue to build relationships and promote trust, and, in addition, find innovative ways to support communities that seek to discourage violent extremism and undercut terrorist narratives.

Yup, you've got it. They're gonna build emotional bridges, hold town hall meetings, and smother those guys in great big partnership group hugs until they give up their extreme ways through the loving light of progressive thinking. Wow! Now why didn't we all just think of that before the Boston Marathon bombings?