WASHINGTON — Supporters of the terrorist group ISIS are flocking to Iraq and Syria at record rates with an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters joining the barbarian organization worldwide, reports state.
The information was released on Wednesday during a hearing before the House Homeland Security Commission. Nick Rasmussen, the chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, said that the rate is unprecedented compared to those that joined jihadists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Iraq in the past 20 years.
Supporters from over 80 countries are believed to be in Iraq and Syria at this time, with at least 3,400 of them westerners. Approximately 150 Americans have attempted to travel overseas to join ISIS, some of which have succeeded while others have been caught. The current estimate of 20,000 is up from previous count of 10,000 and could escalate even higher to over 31,000.
“This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity and additional intelligence,” an unidentified CIA official told CNN this week.
Officials state that they are concerned that some of the foreign fighters who are streaming into Iraq and Syria will return to their home countries to carry out terrorist attacks. As previously reported, the attack last month in France was carried out by at least one Islamic jihadist who had trained in Yemen.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the committee, called the figures “the largest convergence of Islamist terrorists in world history.”
“I am worried about our ability to combat this threat abroad, but also here at home,” he said. “I wrote to the president recently as part of my ongoing investigation and raised concerns that we have no lead agency in charge of countering domestic radicalization and no line item for it in the budgets of key departments and agencies. I am also concerned that the few programs we do have in place are far too small to confront a challenge that has grown so quickly.”
But in response to the report, Barack Obama sent out a letter to members of Congress seeking authorization for increased action against ISIS, which he refers to as ISIL.
“If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland,” he wrote.
Obama said that action would include limited ground troops.
“My adminstration’s draft AUMF would not authorize long-term, large-scale, ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he stated. “The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership.”
Congress will be voting for the first time in 13 years on war efforts.