WASHINGTON, D.C.–The United States is largely unprepared to fight a threat like ISIS and is not doing a good job at stopping Americans from traveling overseas to join up, said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), in a report released Tuesday.
Thompson is the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.
“The alarming threat of extremist ideology possibly influencing foreign fighters is very apparent in today’s world,” said Thompson.
The Homeland Security Committee’s bipartisan Foreign Fighter Task Force released its final report at a press conference Tuesday. The Task Force conducted an extensive, six month review to assess the severity of the threat from individuals who leave home to join jihadist groups overseas and to identify potential security gaps.
As world leaders meet at the United Nations today to discuss the foreign fighter threat, the Committee presented 32 key findings and recommendations to counter terrorist travel. According to the final report, we are witnessing the largest global convergence of jihadists in history in Syria, and foreign fighters have taken the lead in recruiting a new generation of terrorists to spread terror back home.
- Despite concerted efforts to stem the flow, we have largely failed to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists. Of the hundreds of Americans who have sought to travel to the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq, authorities have only interdicted a fraction of them.
- The U.S. government lacks a national strategy for combating terrorist travel and has not produced one in nearly a decade.
- Gaping security weaknesses overseas—especially in Europe—are putting the U.S. homeland in danger by making it easier for aspiring foreign fighters to migrate to terrorist hotspots and for jihadists to return to the West.
“The Task Force’s report is a step in stemming this trend – it outlines specific findings and sets up a path for us to address them going forward. The Task Force has found that although there are serious government efforts to address the radicalization of foreign fighters, there is much more we can do in terms of sharing information with our international partners, assisting law enforcement, and bolstering community awareness. This report is the result of six months of detailed work on addressing this threat, and I want to thank the bipartisan group of task force members for completing it,” said Thompson.