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Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

January 13, 2015 Comments off

Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq
Source: Brookings Institution

Many U.S. and European intelligence officials fear that a wave of terrorism will sweep over Europe, driven by the civil war in Syria and continuing instability in Iraq. Many of the concerns stem from the large number of foreign fighters involved.

Despite these fears and the real danger that motivates them, the Syrian and Iraqi foreign fighter threat can easily be exaggerated. Previous cases and information emerging from Syria suggest several mitigating effects that may reduce—but hardly eliminate—the potential terrorist threat from foreign fighters who have gone to Syria. Those mitigating factors include:

• Many die, blowing themselves up in suicide attacks or perishing quickly in firefights with opposing forces.
• Many never return home, but continue fighting in the conflict zone or at the next battle for jihad.
• Many of the foreign fighters quickly become disillusioned, and a number even return to their home country without engaging in further violence.
• Others are arrested or disrupted by intelligence services. Indeed, becoming a foreign fighter—particularly with today’s heavy use of social media—makes a terrorist far more likely to come to the attention of security services.

The danger posed by returning foreign fighters is real, but American and European security services have tools that they can successfully deploy to mitigate the threat. These tools will have to be adapted to the new context in Syria and Iraq, but they will remain useful and effective.

CBO — Updated Death and Injury Rates of U.S. Military Personnel During the Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan: Working Paper 2014-08

December 18, 2014 Comments off

Updated Death and Injury Rates of U.S. Military Personnel During the Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan: Working Paper 2014-08
Source: Congressional Budget Office

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, which ended on August 31, 2010, some 3,482 hostile deaths occurred among U.S. military personnel and 31,947 people were wounded in action (WIA). More than 1,800 hostile deaths occurred during Operation Enduring Freedom (in Afghanistan and surrounding countries) through November 2014; about 20,000 more people were wounded in action.

In the Iraq conflict, a larger proportion of wounded personnel survived their wounds than was the case during the Vietnam War, but the increased survival rates are not as high as some studies have asserted. Prior to the surge in troop levels that began in early 2007, the survival rate was 90.4 percent in Iraq—compared with 86.5 percent in Vietnam.

Amputation rates are difficult to measure consistently, but I estimate that 2.6 percent of all WIA and 9.0 percent of medically-evacuated WIA from the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters combined resulted in the major loss of a limb.

CRS — The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (December 8, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Islamic State is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. It threatens the governments of both countries and potentially several other countries in the region. The emerging international response to the threat is multifaceted and includes coalition military strikes and assistance plans. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region.

An Assessment of the Present and Future Labor Market in the Kurdistan Region — Iraq

December 15, 2014 Comments off

An Assessment of the Present and Future Labor Market in the Kurdistan Region — Iraq
Source: RAND Corporation

The study addresses the question of how the Kurdistan Regional Government can improve the private-sector labor market in the Kurdistan Region — Iraq (KRI). Doing so will involve creating mechanisms by which job-seekers can develop the right skills and find employers who will hire them, employers can find the employees they need, and the government can create an enabling environment in which the best matches between job-seekers and employers can be made. The study estimates the likely number and education levels of new job-seekers through 2020. It conducts an original, scientific survey to learn about employer perceptions of skill gaps in the KRI. Then, it investigates sectoral employment growth in comparison economies to identify promising growth sectors. Finally, it outlines policy steps for the government to take to improve the functioning of the private-sector labor market.

CRS — A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (November 20, 2014)

December 9, 2014 Comments off

A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report presents statistics regarding U.S. military casualties in the active missions Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR, Iraq and Syria) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan), as well as operations that have ended, Operation New Dawn (OND, Iraq) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF, Iraq). This report includes statistics on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, evacuations, and the demographics of casualties. Some of these statistics are publicly available at the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) website and others have been obtained through contact with experts at DOD.

This report will be updated as needed.

What Lessons Did We Learn (or Re-Learn) About Military Advising After 9/11?

December 1, 2014 Comments off

What Lessons Did We Learn (or Re-Learn) About Military Advising After 9/11? (PDF)
Source: Military Review

As military operations in Afghanistan continue to wind down in 2014, the U.S. military and international partner armed forces need to codify lessons learned on military advising from 9/11 to the present, with special emphasis on capturing insights from the two major counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. A compendium of lessons should include answers to certain essential questions. What major advising lessons did the U.S. military learn since 9/11? What current advising lessons parallel previously gleaned insights from historic advising missions? How should armed forces treat the advising mission after the troops withdraw from Afghanistan?

The main purpose of this article is to provide a set of the most important military advising lessons learned from past and present. These lessons have been distilled from comparing historical and contemporary advisory experiences extracted from dozens of sources including military journal articles, doctrine, book chapters, and monographs.

CRS — The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (October 22, 2014)

November 3, 2014 Comments off

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Islamic State is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. It threatens the governments of both countries and potentially several other countries in the region, and has drawn increased attention from the international community. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region.

See also: Turkey-U.S. Cooperation Against the “Islamic State”: A Unique Dynamic?, CRS Insights (October 21, 2014) (PDF)

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