Indeed, instead of isolating ISIS returnees, it is more productive to exploit their experience and knowledge, using them as a weapon against ISIS itself. A constant flow of radical Islamic propaganda generates new recruits; therefore, the experienced fighters, though valuable, are not actually irreplaceable. Whereas for Central Asia’s security services, foreign fighters are priceless, providing a deeper insight into the enemy’s thinking. Such an approach offers plenty of opportunities. For example, in his book “Understanding Terror Networks,” Marc Sageman, an American counter-terrorism expert, suggests repentant jihadists seeking public forgiveness can play an important role in countering Islamist propaganda.
ISIS established its branch in Afghanistan in 2015, and since then has been attracting foreign fighters, including those of Central Asian origin, as an alternative to war zones in the Middle East. ISIS Khorasan Province has drawn defectors from the Taliban and was joined by part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a radical Islamist group set up in the late 90s with the aim of overthrowing the then president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, and establishing Sharia law there.