U.S. intelligence agencies are bracing for a flood of jihadists who eventually will leave Syria after fighting in its civil war and return to their home countries, FBI Director James Comey said.
Thousands of foreign fighters have journeyed to Syria, where they may gain training and experience — and become more radicalized — before returning to their homelands, counterterrorism experts say.
Mr. Comey said dozens of Americans have participated in the civil war.
During a roundtable discussion with reporters on Friday, the FBI director compared Syria to Afghanistan, where the nucleus of al Qaeda was formed during the Soviet Union’s 10-year occupation in the 1980s. Many of the Muslims who traveled to Afghanistan returned to their home countries with a jihadist mindset.
“All of us with a memory of the ’80s and ’90s saw the line drawn from Afghanistan in the ’80s and ’90s to Sept. 11,” Mr. Comey said. “We see Syria as that, but an order of magnitude worse” because more fighters are entering the country and it’s easier to get to.
“So there’s going to be a diaspora out of Syria at some point, and we are determined not to let lines be drawn from Syria today to a future 9/11. So it’s something that all parts of the U.S. intelligence community are focused on,” he said.
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