Foreign Fighters: Defining the Concept and Assessing the Effectiveness of Policies to Counter Them

Title: Foreign Fighters: Defining the Concept and Assessing the Effectiveness of Policies to Counter Them
Authors: Leduc, Raphaël
Date: 2016-06-30
Abstract: Foreign fighters who join the conflict in Iraq and Syria are increasingly seen as a growing source of insecurity. Prior to this conflict, and to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that preceded it, the term foreign fighter was absent from the literature in security studies. The concept has quickly gained a great deal of attention from the media and decision-makers. The field of security studies has not kept pace, with only a handful of authors focusing on this topic. Estimates vary, but there are at least 20,000 foreign fighters involved in the conflict in Iraq and Syria. This significant movement of non-state violent actors presents unique challenges that warrant an in-depth study of this topic, especially as decision-makers begin enacting policies to counter the movement of foreign fighters. This major research paper seeks to bring together the relevant literature on the subject of foreign fighters as a means of conceptualizing the concept and providing recommendations to its further research and study. This paper builds on various definitions of a foreign fighter and explains the motivations of this unique non-state actor. It then uses this theoretical foundation to assess the effectiveness of current counter-foreign fighter policies and concludes that these policies are inadequate and problematic as they are likely to increase the risk of domestic terrorism and other violent acts without effectively countering the movement of foreign fighters into conflict zones. Furthermore, counter-foreign fighter policies tend to prevent or deter individuals from returning to their home states, thus keeping them from demobilizing which may create long-term impacts on global stability.
CollectionAffaires publiques et internationales - Mémoires // Public and International Affairs - Research Papers