Many Americans Fighting in Iraq, Syria Are Foes of IS

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FILE - Fighters take a selfie while firing artillery against Islamic State militants in Fallujah, Iraq, May 29, 2016.

Study shows more than half of US citizens who have gone to fight in Iraq or Syria are not Islamic State supporters but are battling the terror group

FILE - Fighters take a selfie while firing artillery against Islamic State militants in Fallujah, Iraq, May 29, 2016.
FILE – Fighters take a selfie while firing artillery against Islamic State militants in Fallujah, Iraq, May 29, 2016.

Jeff Seldin

WASHINGTON—More than half the men and women who have left the United States to join the conflict in Iraq and Syria may actually be battling against the Islamic State terror group instead of fighting for it.

That conclusion is based on a new report by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), as well as on court records and information previously shared by intelligence and law enforcement officials.

“That pathway is fairly well-trodden. The scale of it surprised us a little bit,” said ISD Policy and Research Manager Henry Tuck, who co-authored “Shooting in the Right Direction: Anti-ISIS Foreign Fighters in Syria & Iraq.” ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

The report looked at the nationalities and motivations of foreign fighters who traveled to the region through the end of 2015 specifically to fight IS or other known terror groups. It found 114 of these fighters were from the U.S.

That figure alone would represent a sizeable chunk — almost 46 percent — of the approximately 250 Americans who, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and the intelligence community, have sought to take part in the overall conflict.

But the percentage of American foreign fighters battling IS may be higher still — perhaps more than 50 percent — in large part because officials admit not all of the Americans who tried to go to Syria and Iraq actually made it.

In fact, statistics kept by the George Washington University Program on Extremism indicate as many as 47 would-be foreign fighters have been arrested in the U.S. and charged with IS-related offenses.

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