Since the evolving of the civil-war in Syria the intensified brutalization means that crimes against humanity, crimes of genocide and crimes of war have become more or less a routine and in fact a mean, way and an endstate of warfare among many of the participants.
Further more with the attacks, the occupation and the sort of warfare carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of war has geared up the necessity to effectively stop the recruitment of new participants as well as to follow up with legal convictions on those participating in these horrible crimes.
Today the estimation is that 11.000 participants in the Syria-Iraq conflict are Foreign Fighters (FF) and Combatant Trained in Foreign Countries (CTFC). They are right there in the theatre of Syria and Iraq, but they have their citizenship in other countries, mostly in the Middle East. But almost 2000-3000 of them are from West-Europe, United States, Canada and Australia.
Perhaps we cant stop the conflict in Syria and Iraq, but we can stop the logistic flow of soldiers and materiel. Every country have their own responsibility to participate in this very essential work for elemantary humanity and to uphold the respect for international law. Sweden being one of the biggest supplier in West-Europe of foreign fighters and combatants trained in foreign countries have a non-negotiable non-relativistic responsibility to contest our own space and to stop new recruitment to FF and CTFC.
At this moment about 70-100 FF/CTFC has travelled to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and even Ukraine (10). About 40 have returned and so far about 20 has been reported dead.
We know that most FF and CTFC will have a low barrier against the use of violence. There are also clear signs of unsocial behavior and mental illness detected among several of those that have returned.
Statistics clearly indicates a potential higher risk for severe damage if terrorist-attack are carried out by FF/CTFC.
-Global Jihadist 93-08 trained by AQ means that the possibility of success in terrorist-attacks increases 2-4 times (Sageman)
-Out of 32 serious jihadist attacks against targets in West-countries 04-11, 53 procent of the cases where linked to training and operational planning that where done abroad in Pakistan, 6 procent in Jemen and 3 procent in Iraq (Cruickshank)
-In 04-07 six cases of serious planning to attack the UK where discovered. In five of these cases 38 core-individuals had crucial contact of significant importance to training-camps for terrorists in Pakistan. These connections where not just simple sporadic connections. They where an important part of planning and the execution of plans (Clutterbuck and Warnes RAND)
We also know that both the leader of AQ Mr Zawahiri and the leader of IS Mr Baghdadi have pinpointed Sweden as a vital target. Abdulwhab al-Abdaly that blew him simself up at the corner of Drottninggatan-Bryggargatan in Stockholm 2010 claimed that he where acting on the behalf of the Islamic State. Later information have suggested that he where trained by the same group in Iraq.
Further on international and national studies shows that homegrown self-radicalized and inspired violent extremism can escalate to terrorism.
The existance of autonomous violent jihadist cells, potential lone actors and an existing train the trainer phenomena could become a deadly cocktail when inspired by and trained by well educated, trained and experienced FF and CTFC.
In todays strongly polarized political debate and environment in Sweden there is a likely risk of trigger-effects on right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism and jihadism. They all nurture each other.
A risk-assessment would indicate that FF/CTFC increases the risk for terror-attacks in Sweden to become more likely and with an moderate to major impact. We also have to reflect upon the nexus and convergence of criminality and civil-war, insurgencies and terrorism. We will see an increase in criminal activities transformed to Sweden, both in order to finance acitivities of terror and insurgency as well as gaining just criminal economic profits. Logistics means and financial support from Sweden will in this scenario increase over time.
Challenges when countering FF and CTFC – interrelated factors
Some of the factors that do play an significant role in the process leading forward to a person becoming an FF or CTFC are:
- Socioeconomic marginalization. Its an mixture of a failing education system, unemployment, social deprivation, etc. These problems often – not always – converge with subareas characterized by socio-economic marginalization, social unrest, criminality and anti-social behavior.
- Retold or/and self-experienced grievances (“War on terror” and its effect on for example muslim communities, Israel-Palestina conflict, second generation immigrant in diaspora, discrimination, loss of exit and a “lifeproject” etc.)
- Radicalized and strongly polarized political debate and growing extreme political alternatives. Right-wing, left-wing and jihadist/islamist movements indirectly nurturing each other.
- Political discourse in line with AQ and IS strategy to create and further fuel the fire on the perceived conflict between the West and the muslim world.
Desired endstate of the strategy
The desired endstate of a strategy should be that no person living in Sweden shall become a Foreign Fighter or Combatant Trained in a Foreign Country. Thereby we contribute to the global combat against terrorism, we make Sweden safer and we secure that all individuals will enjoy their human rights.
So what would be the definition of terrorism conducted by Foreign Fighters and Combatant Trained in a Foreign Country!?
•The unlawful use or threatened use of violence carried out by Foreign Fighters or Combatant Trained in a Foreign Country against individuals or property in an attempt to coerce or intimidate the government or the society to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives
By this definition we will circle in the important factors such as: actor, act, victim, intent, audience and environment. The definition is important for several reason. One is of course that the definition plays a huge role when deciding upon wether international law, international treaties and international co-operation can be used to their fully extension.
This strategy would function as a more detailed strategy built upon The Swedish National Strategy on Counter Terrorism and The Swedish National Strategy on Counter Violent Extremism. This strategy would be part of the governments nested strategies.
The framework of the strategy is pro-active as well as re-active:
•Predicting and detecting those in risk of becoming FF/CTFC
•Detecting and Preventing from becoming FF/CTFC and inspiring others
•Responding to those coming back so that they may be reintegrated to the society
•Pursue those FF/CTFC that have committed crimes of war, crimes on humanity, crimes of genocide and those who in other unlawful ways are contributing to recruitment, arranging education, financing, logistic etc of FF/CTFC. When the law is reformed also investigate and when possibly prosecute those participating in education, training and fighting.
•Recover from an terror-attack by foster a culture of resilience especially in Local Government and among Local Community Leaders
Current status and recommendations
Predict and detect
The security agencies, including the fusion center NCT, do have fairly good and effective co-operation, capacity and capability in sharing information on threat-assessment, for example on terror-related matters.
But, the local governments are generally characterized by low awarness, low competence and a lack of co-operation in the area of violent extremism and terrorism, especially when it comes to related questions such as the FF and CTFC.
-Form Local Detect, Prevent and Respond Team (DPRT)
-Community policing in co-operation with local government, DPRT and community leaders actively targeting FF/CTFC both on ground and in social media.
-Concerning-dialogue with individuals when indication on general unsocial behavior combined with engagement in violent extremism.
-Some municipalities are in the initial process of starting or have started similar activities. Perhaps in the near future they can be used as road-models.
Detect and Prevent
There is of course no uniform identity or character among those who become recruited to become FF and CTFC. But there are some backgrounds that are more or less common. Often there is a story of social needs, unemployment, failed education etc. Overcrowded apartments that forces youngsters to spend time in other groups and subgroups/areas.
We also know that social media plays a decisive role. Especially secret communication at the deep web. We can also observe that recruiters do target local community by propaganda, fundraising, incitement, etc. Radicalization and recruitment are sometimes parallell processes and sometimes processes linking on to esch other.
But the fundamental hinder today against prevention is the lack in legislative matters (Today forbidden to arrange education and training but not to take part of training or participate).
- Legislative reform on FF/CTFC. Forbid education and training as well as participation in fighting.
- Contest the space and redirect conversation. Fund NGO:s that counter narrative both on ground and in social media.
- Train local community-police and DPRT to carry out risk-assessment.
- Concern-dialogue in direct targeting FF/CTFC.
- Increase education in our school-system on critical thinking among youngster.
- Fund NGO-activities for meaningful activities during spare time.
- View reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty and de-legitimaze via information on the situation and the crimes that FF and CTFC are conducting in Syria and Iraq.
- National knowledge- and advisory-center for preventing and countering violent extremism.
So far 40 FF and CTFC have returned from foreign theatres. Some shows sign of anti-social behavior and PTSD. Families and local community leaders are very worries and they ask the local government for help and the police to respond. There is a risk that FF and CTFC will inspire others on social media or on the ground, for example autonomous jihadist cells or lone actors. Its even been identified that some of them act as train the trainer.
Its important to respond with targeted precised ways and means.
- Foster a strong co-operation betwen DPRT, healthcare, local police in close contact with the families and local community leaders.
-Risk-assessment carried out by local police and the security service if necessary in some aspects in co-operation with DPRT.
-Concern-dialogue and de-briefing (indirect contesting the space) with FF and CTFC.
-If possible facilitate dis-engaged FF and CTFC as storytellers in social media and on ground. Direct contest the space.
-EXIT, priority to find a new “life-project”. Meaning of life.
-Sponsor NGO:s and local community-organisations that are eager to contest the space and redirect conversation on social media and on ground in the local environment.
So far there has not been any prosecution on FF or CTFC related to Syria or Iraq neither on the prohibition against training and educating nor on crimes of war, crimes on genocide or crimes of humanity. Also supportive activities such as funding, recruitment, planning and logistics seems to continue without major interruptions.
Embryos to autonomous jihadist cells, indications on lone actors and train the trainer phenomena are – as long as they are known – targeted and under surveillance by the security service. But there need to be more attention on the necessity to have a whole government approach when detecting, preventing, responding on and pursuing FF and CTFC.
- Investigate and when possibly prosecute those who arrange education and training of FF and CTFC. When the law is reformed also investigate and when possibly prosecute those participating in education, training and fighting.
- Always investigate and when possibly prosecute whose that have committed crimes on humanity, crimes of genocide and crimes of war. In the latter part there is a new law in place since the summer of 2014.
- Prosecution and the opening to publicity of the investigation may contribute to de-legitimize FF and CTFC.
-Target and disrupt funding and logistics via an task-forcegroup at the National Police Board, Security Service, National Taxation Board, Local Social Affairs Board etc.
There are Municipal Crisis Team in place but they have rarely trained on how to recover from a terrorist-attack.
- We need to foster a culture of resilience. Reinforce and support Local Government och local community leaders. One way is to enforce an Crise-exame in Preventing and Counter Violent Extremism and Terrorism on Local Government level.
Success of this strategy relies on the political will to take on the public debate, to fund proposed activities, to support local communities and to fulfill a whole government approach including legislative reforms. The failure to implement this strategy increases the risk for terrorist attacks in Sweden to become likely and with an moderate to major impact.
Conclusion – Proportionality och precised actions
These are some observations on the current situation in Sweden and some of the recommendations that can be feasibel to implement. The whole strategy includes more of activities and recommendations that would form a whole government approach. This is just the summary.
The crucial plattform for the strategy is build upon the concept “if it isnt broke dont fix it”. By that I mean that it is fundamental that all means and ways are precisely directed and that they always shall be formed, structured and implemented in proportion to the threat. In proportion to the desired endstate. And that is an endstate that always focus on the safe-guarding of Human Rights.
Gender conflict prevention countering violent extremism
Every fifth FF from Scandinavia killed in Syria and Iraq
About FF from Norway
Professor Mohammad Fazlhashemi, (islam teology at Uppsala university) on IS in Iraq
Swedish men participate in IS
IS the Jihadist hub
Swedish Defence College – Report on Foreign Fighters
Peder Hyllengren at the Swedish Defence College – On Jihadist and Foreign Fighters
IS crimes on children and women – ethnical and religious clensing
A united society against IS – Salar Rashid, Candidate to the Swedish Parliament
An arabic journalist de-legitimaze a Swedish IS-supporter, effectively. The journalist knows his Koran.
And a Swedish comment on the intervju – Hans Brun, Swedish Defence College
ISIS views spread in Balkans as Kosovo police nab 40 militants
A war betwen civilisation and barbari – The war and terror by IS in Iraq and Syria
Hours from a genocide in Iraq – US, Iraq, Germany, France and UK proceeds with massiv aid and military advisory support
Key-numbers on IS brutality in Iraq and Syria
At war for the Caliphate
IS in Iraq – A project that must be countered and stopped
IS beheading children
Swedish MP, member of the Foreign Affairs Committé and Foreign Policy spokesman for the Socialdemocrates recognizes US support to Irak and also demand a UN-mandat to fight IS.
Iraq by itself can not stop IS – Hans Brun at the Swedish Defence College
Swedish Security Service update from today on the subject Foreign Fighters.
IS seize key towns
Disrupt IS cash-flow in Iraq – target their local economy
Hundreds of British extremists are going to come home if they start losing
More Foreign Fighters from Sweden joining IS, what will happen if and when they return?
Can we counter Jihad-fatwa in Sweden?
Sunni-muslim leaders ready to join new Iraq government – Game-changer
Twitter suspends Islamic State Accounts
Kamp mot extremism har försummats, det behövs en strategi mot resande stridande – Staffan Danielsson (c) och Edward Nordén (c)
kamp mot extremism har försummats
Terror-error – Aron Lund
Tomorrow it will be The West!
How to save Middle East from Islamic State