- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A London-based think tank has concluded that more than 33 percent of Western anti-Islamic State fighters are American and usually military veterans.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue recently released a report titled “Shooting in the right direction: Anti-ISIS foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria,” referring to the terrorist group by an acronym. The nonprofit organization used a database of over 300 foreign fighters from Western nations to glean an American subgroup of roughly 100 men, mostly veterans.

“Over one in three anti-ISIS foreign fighters are American and often military veterans,” the report reads. “The anti-ISIS fighters in the database originate from a total of 26 predominantly Western countries, with the U.S. (38%), U.K. (14%), Germany (8%), France (6%), Sweden (6%) and Canada (5%) providing the largest proportions. The prevalence of Americans is largely explained by the number of U.S. military veterans. In contrast, estimates suggest that only around 6% of Islamist foreign fighters are from the U.S.”

ISD’s research concluded that some of the factors that motivate these men to fight include:

  • Frustrations with the international response to the conflict.
  • A strong desire to defend persecuted groups, such as Christians.
  • A feeling of lack of purpose that “pushes” the individual into the conflict zone.
  • Veterans have a desire to “finish the job” to ensure that previous sacrifices were not made in vain.
  • Men seek “to defeat broadly defined concepts such as ‘evil’ or terrorism.”

The report warned that governments need to work now to ensure “existing support systems” will be in place for Western anti-Islamic State fighters when they return home.

ABC News’ “Nightline” spoke to one such fighter in 2015 who only identified himself as “Brett.” The 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran told the network he traveled to Iraq to defend Christians against the Islamic State.

“People ask me, ‘Why you?’ I come back and say, ‘Why not? Why just me? Where’s everyone else at?” Brett said. “Jesus says, you know, ‘What you do unto the least of them, you do unto me.’ I take that very seriously.”

Brett is also referenced in ISD’s report.

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