Julia Trehu is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.
As the civil war rages in Syria, the arrival of foreign combatants in the region has become a troubling characteristic of the opposition forces battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. European governments have already taken steps to directly address the issue of their citizens’ involvement in the conflict–Belgium established a network to monitor returning fighters, and the Netherlands defined the return of jihadists from Syria as a top-level security threat. A recent article documenting the flow of foreign fighters into Syria comes at a time when the United States is supplying limited arms to the opposition, an already controversial decision with concerns about ensuring that terrorists do not receive weapons. The question of foreign involvement, specifically of American citizens acting as free agents, could complicate immediate policy options in Syria, evoke potential long-term threats, and provoke debate over the targeting of American citizens in the fight against global terror networks and their affiliates. Read more »