We now know a fair amount about ISIS’s elaborate recruiting network and the militant group’s success courting an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 fighters from around the world to join its brutal campaign in Syria and Iraq.
But what about size and geographical makeup of the foreigners flocking to the Middle East to fight against ISIS? A new report finally sheds some light on the scope of that effort. At least 108 Americans have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight against ISIS, the report says. It’s not just the U.S.—private citizens from at least 21 other countries have also joined rebel groups that are waging war against ISIS. Those include US-allies like the UK, Australia, and South Korea, as well as sometime-rivals like Iran and Russia. They are typically joining Kurdish forces or Christian militias.
The report, The Other Foreign Fighters, written by the investigative media outlet Bellingcat, found that Americans fight against ISIS for a variety of reasons, including a desire for adventure, a sense of moral outrage, and their religious beliefs, which are overwhelmingly Christian. (Ironically, ISIS recruits often cite religion and adventure as reasons for wanting to join the Islamic State.) Many are male U.S. military veterans, between the ages of 20 and 29.
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