Work Experience – Jihadist: What to Do with the Terrorists Returning Home

© REUTERS / Tony GentilePolice officers stand next to a black Islamic State flag that was seized in a raid, at a news conference held at the police headquarters in Rome, Italy, January 10, 2017
Police officers stand next to a black Islamic State flag that was seized in a raid, at a news conference held at the police headquarters in Rome, Italy, January 10, 2017 - Sputnik International
Facing a string of defeats from Palmyra to Mosul, Daesh's days as a coherent fighting force are clearly numbered. Many fighters have already fled the battlefield and tried to return home. According to Radio Sputnik contributor Vladimir Filippov, the most serious problem isn't catching them, but finding the antidote to their poisonous ideology.

On Thursday, Syrian forces backed by Russian air power won back control over Palmyra, freeing the ancient city from terrorists who had managed to destroy overnight what time had preserved for millennia. 

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In Iraq, meanwhile, Daesh is slowly but surely being squeezed out of Mosul, with the Iraqi army managing to liberate three quarters of the city. Earlier this week, Iraqi forces captured secret Daesh documents, which confirmed the internal collapse of the terrorist group, with commanders unsure whether Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is alive or dead, unsure of the real military situation, and facing desertion from the foreign fighters in their ranks.

But as the terrorists are squeezed out of their self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq, they are making an attempt to return to their countries of origin. In a recent piece for RIA Novosti, Radio Sputnik contributor Vladimir Filippov explained that the seriousness of the problem can be confirmed by the example of Tunisia. There, he noted, security forces have already arrested upwards of 800 ex-jihadists fleeing from the fighting. 

Tunisian diplomat and political scientist Mezri Haddad confirmed to Radio Sputnik that the returnees pose a very serious threat. "The Tunisian government has reason to be worried," he said, "especially since previous governments have participated a bit in exporting this 'terrorist workforce' to Syria. I estimate that the number of Tunisians who left for Syria – with the financial support of Qatar, and logistical assistance from Turkey, to be at least 11,000 people."

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And it is here, Filippov noted, where the crux of the problem becomes apparent. "Daesh as a fighting group will be destroyed. The flight or 'migration' of the terrorists beyond Iraq's boundaries is a serious issue, but not the main one – since the majority can be caught."

"It is fighting with their misanthropic ideology – that is something which is much more difficult," the journalist emphasized. "Recall how many of their followers have been arrested in Europe, and Russia. How many potential terrorists are still 'asleep', or remain underground? How many [girls like] Varvara Karaulova are still ready to become volunteers and wives to the Daesh thugs?" he asked.

"What is to be done?" Filippov queried. "Some say that this is the eternal Russian question." In reality, the observer noted, as far as Daesh is concerned, this today is a question for the Germans (Was zu machen?), for the British (What to do?) and for other civilizations as well.

Daesh's ideology is beatable, the journalist noted. "History shows that for this to be done, a counter-idea is needed. Only an idea can defeat another idea. If this idea is found, its author would justifiably deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, there has to be some way to rehabilitate this once respected award," Filippov concluded.

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Ultimately, the journalist did not answer his own question. Perhaps the answer lies in sanctioning those governments, particularly among the Gulf States, which export Daesh-like ideology beyond their own border. Perhaps it lies in ending the US and European military interventions against secular Middle Eastern governments, which exacerbate tensions and lead to explosions of chaos and terrorism, as the examples of Iraq and Libya demonstrate. Perhaps part of the answer lies in creating alternatives to the post-modern, post-nation, post-border, hyper-consumerist ideologies which dominate many contemporary societies and lead to the kinds of social dislocation that groups like Daesh feeds on.

Whatever the answer is, Filippov is correct in saying that it must be found, and found quickly. Otherwise, the Middle East, Europe, Russia and the United States may soon face an army of battle-hardened jihadists coming back from their failed social experiment, with a chip on their shoulder toward the states which helped crush the self-proclaimed caliphate.

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