On October 2, HSPI hosted a roundtable discussion with the Executive Director of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, Jean-Paul Laborde. Mr. Laborde discussed the international threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters as they gain combat experience in Iraq and Syria and bring this experience back to their home countries.
“This phenomenon isn’t new,” Mr. Laborde told the audience at the George Washington University Alumni House. “But the current scope is unprecedented.”
Mr. Laborde estimated that 15,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 80 countries have joined the ongoing fight in Syria. While the majority of these militants are from the Middle East and North Africa, he estimated that 3,000 of these fighters are from Europe, while others come from Australia and the United States.
Mr. Laborde emphasized the UN Security Council’s role in addressing these threats, primarily through fostering international cooperation between member-states and establishing a legal framework to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters. Last month, the UN adopted Resolution 2178, which holds that Member States will prevent the “recruiting, organizing, transporting, or equipping of individuals who travel to a State other than their State of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning of, or participation in terrorist acts.”
Mr. Laborde also highlighted the importance of educating judges and prosecutors of the legal measures in place to prosecute foreign fighters, and the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s country visits to assess security measures on the ground. The Committee has already visited 85 countries.
“The UN Security Council sets the international standard for its member-states,” Mr Laborde said. “We don’t do business as usual anymore.”
Mr. Laborde underscored the ever-changing nature of this threat, and the importance of staying up-to-date on foreign fighter travel patterns and the way social media is being used to spread terrorist messages and recruit. He also noted that the importance of the UN’s work with Interpol and Europol to combat violent extremism.
HSPI Director Frank Cilluffo also noted the growing number of westerners who are creating new networks of foreign terrorist fighters through propaganda, fundraising, and recruiting.
“We are fighting for the precious principles and values of our constitutions and at the same time, we have to defeat this threat,” Mr. Laborde said. “Nothing is more important that protecting the lives of the people.”
Tess Wallenstein is an intern with HSPI and a junior at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.