Tag Archives: foreign fighters

The West and its Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 June 2019

An Islamic State being led into the Iraqi Criminal Court in Baghdad, 5 May 2019 (AP)

From May 26 to June 3, Iraq’s government sentenced to death 11 Islamic State operatives who had been captured in Syria. The novelty in the cases was that the Iraqis said the militants were French and ten of them were. The other was Tunisian.

The French government has made a pro forma protest against the death sentences but did nothing to impede the process. This is of a piece with the general approach European countries, including Britain, have taken to their citizens who joined jihadi groups in the Levant. Continue reading

Islamic State Says the West Has Admitted the Group Cannot Be Defeated

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 4 March 2019

Front page of Al-Naba 170

The 170th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State (IS) newsletter, was produced on 21 February 2019. Its main editorial on page 3 focused on the organisation’s apparent “inability to surrender”. Continue reading

The Secular Foreign Fighters of the West in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 July 2018

Foreign fighters with the YPG/PKK on the outskirts of Tal Tamr in northwestern Syria, 16 April 2015. UYGAR ÖNDER ŞİMŞEK / AFP / Getty Images

ABSTRACT: The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operates under the names of the Democratic Union Party and the People’s Protection Units in Syria. The PKK is registered as a terrorist group by most Western governments, the European Union and Turkey, where it originated as a separatist organization. Nonetheless, the YPG has been the partner of the United States-led coalition in Syria against the ISIS. The strengthening of the YPG/PKK and its political messaging has brought in a flow of western foreign fighters. Some of these fighters are now returning to their homelands with indications that they are bringing security problems with them.

Article published in Insight Turkey.

The End of the Line for “The Beatles” of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 February 2018

El Shafee Elsheikh (image source) and Alexanda Kotey (image source)

Last night, The New York Times reported and Reuters confirmed that two British Islamic State (IS) jihadists, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, both of them designated terrorists by the United States, have been arrested in Syria. Kotey and Elsheikh, along with the late Mohammed Emwazi (Abu Muharib al-Muhajir) and Aine Davis, formed a four-man cell that has become known as “The Beatles”—hence Emwazi being near-universally known as “Jihadi John”—that guarded, abused, and murdered hostages for IS from before the “caliphate” was founded in 2014. Continue reading

The Forgotten Foreign Fighters: The PKK in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 August 2017

I released a report today, published by the Henry Jackson Society, The Forgotten Foreign Fighters: The PKK in Syria. Continue reading

The Leadership Structure of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 August 2017

A year ago, I wrote a report documenting the biographies of Islamic State (IS) leaders and something of the structure of the organisation. Since then, the intricacies of the structure have been further revealed, even as it has somewhat crumbled in practice. The caliphate—the statelet built by IS—has been significantly degraded: the Iraqi “capital”, Mosul, has fallen, and operation to clear the Syrian “capital”, Raqqa, is underway. More significantly, upwards of 40% of those profiled have been killed, so it seemed an opportune moment for an update on who currently leads the world’s most infamous terrorist movement.
Continue reading

The West’s Inconsistent Approach To Foreign Fighters in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 April 2017

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Turkey-based Kurdish Marxist-nationalist insurgent group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Britain, the United States, NATO, and Turkey, created a new foreign fighter unit in Syria on 31 March. In Syria, the PKK uses the name People’s Protection Units (YPG), and the new organization, mostly composed of Europeans, is called the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF). In addition to underlining some interesting points about the PKK and Western strategy in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), the IRPGF also underlines the different approach the West has taken to foreign fighters flowing to various groups during the Syrian war. Continue reading

Testimony of an American Fighter with the Syrian Kurds

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 18, 2017

American YPG volunteer, “Brennan”

In November 2016, an American, named only as “Brennan,” who had fought alongside the Kurdish militia in Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), spoke to “Kraut and Tea,” a German atheist YouTuber. Brennan provided some interesting details on the governance methods, ideology, and capabilities of the YPG. Continue reading

Iran and Global Terror: From Argentina to the Fertile Crescent

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 27, 2015

Khobar Towers, which Iran jointly bombed with al-Qaeda

Khobar Towers, which Iran jointly bombed with al-Qaeda

Argentina’s government yesterday announced it was dissolving the Secretariat of Intelligence (S.I.), an intelligence agency tainted by the “Dirty War” regimes (1974-83), and more recent abuses as President Cristina Kirchner has taken Argentina back toward autocracy, and replacing it with a Federal agency. Just two days before, charges of corruption were levelled against Antonio Stiusso, S.I.’s director until Kirchner fired him in December. At the beginning of this month, Stiusso went missing. It now seems Stiusso has taken shelter in a neighbouring State.

These events are the latest twist in an extraordinary saga that has followed the discovery of the body of Alberto Nisman on Jan. 18 in his apartment in Buenos Aires, shot in the head in an apparent suicide. Nisman was a prosecutor investigating the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Argentina’s capital. All the evidence that Nisman had gathered pointed to Iran as the perpetrator. Few believe Nisman committed suicide, and—the history of Argentines being “suicided” considered—most fingers are pointing at Iran. Continue reading

The Jihadists’ Information War in Syria and Iraq

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 22, 2014

In April, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation produced a report, ‘Measuring Importance and Influence in Syrian Foreign Fighter Networks,’ which examined the use of social media in recruiting people to the jihadist groups, referring almost solely to Syria at that time, but which applies equally to Iraq. I have now gotten around to reading it and its findings are extremely interesting.  Continue reading