Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Foreign Fighters in Syria and Beyond

Foreign Fighters in Syria and Beyond

  • October 23, 2013
William McCants

Brookings Institution

Barak Mendelsohn

Senior Fellow, FPRI

Clint Watts

Senior Fellow, FPRI

President, Miburo Solutions

Michael P. Noonan


Executive Director, FPRI National Security Program

A Symposium and Webcast

Sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Reserve Officers Association


As the pyre that is Syria continues to burn there is an increasing amount of attention being paid to its proxy war nature. In particular, attention is increasingly being paid to the foreign volunteers that have come to fight either on the side of the rebels or for the government of Bashar al-Assad. What impact are these third party nationals having in the conflict in Syria? What impact will they have when they return to their home countries with advanced training and skils acquired while fighting abroad? Will they be more or less destabilizing to their home country or other countries than the previous foreign fighters that fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, in Bosnia or Chechnya in the 1990s, or those that fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan in the 2000s?

Building on the work of two previous conferences dealing with the problem posed by so-called “foreign fighters,” FPRI’s Program on National Security brings together an excellent panel of relevant subject matter expertise to discuss the questions posed above and more. Clint Watts is an FPRI Senior Fellow and a former Army officer and FBI Special Agent who has written extensively and provided instruction on dealing with the spread and countering of violent extremism. Barak Mendelsohn is also an FPRI Senior Fellow and an associate professor of political science at Haverford College where his research focuses on al-Qaeda and its affiliated movements in international politics. Last, Will McCants is a fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and director of their Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World.

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