Foreign fighter total in Syria/Iraq now exceeds 20,000; surpasses Afghanistan conflict in the 1980s

Peter R. Neumann writes: The number of foreigners that have joined Sunni militant organizations in the Syria/Iraq conflict continues to rise. According to ICSR’s latest estimate, the total now exceeds 20,000 – of which nearly a fifth were residents or nationals of Western European countries.

The figures were produced in collaboration with the Munich Security Conference and will be included in the Munich Security Report – a new, annual digest on key developments in security and foreign policy.

They include estimates for 50 countries for which sufficient data and/or reliable government estimates were available. Southeast Asia remains a blind spot. Countries with 5 or less confirmed cases were omitted. With the exception of some Middle Eastern countries, all figures are based on data from the second half of 2014 and refer to the total number of travelers over the course of the entire conflict.

Based on the 14 countries for which reliable data is available, we estimate that the number of foreigners from Western European countries has risen to almost 4,000. This is nearly double the figure we presented in December 2013, and exceeds the latest estimates by European Union officials.

The largest European countries – France, the UK, and Germany – also produce the largest numbers of fighters. Relative to population size, the most heavily affected countries are Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden. [Continue reading…]

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