In Focus | Possible Outcomes of Problematic Foreign Jihadists File in Syria
Various military and political actors involved in the Syrian issue, alongside military factions active in Syria, have focused on the foreign jihadist fighters file.
Depending on actors’ perspectives, different solutions have been suggested. Although the available information remains conflicting, possible future scenarios can be outlined as follows:
• Settling those who want to remain locally: Some figures and entities suggest settling the foreign fighters, known as “al-Muhajreen”, who wish to remain in Syria especially those who did not engage in war crimes or violent operations against minorities as well as fighters who have married into local families.
• Facilitating the evacuation of extremist leaders: This depends primarily on international consensus to end this file and allow the evacuation of active jihadist leaders to other countries. Yemen and Somalia have been presented as possible havens where these leaders would join the existing al-Qaeda members and reactivate their network in the region. Libya was also proposed in this context as an initial stop before crossing to the Sahara Desert to join jihadist organizations in the desert and Sahel states. However, eliminating al-Qaeda leaders from the region and the emergence of local leaders impedes the implementation of this step.
• Allowing extremist to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS): This step relies on international actors resolving disputes concerning the jihadi factions in conjunction with other files such as the presence of Iranian militias in the region. These groups may play a principle role in confronting the militias whether in Idlib or in the Syrian Badiya region.
• Continuing international efforts to neutralize active jihadist leaders: This option is a continuation of the current policy which includes targeting leaders who may contribute to jihadist organizations if they move to other countries or remain in Syria, whether these figures belong to al-Qaeda or ISIS.
• Handing over the jihadist leaders to their respective countries: This option is considered a last possible resort that depends on settling all files completely. It is also contingent on actors’ abilities to arrest these figures and achieve significant gains from handing them over to their countries of origin, such as handing over leaders from the Turkistan Party to China or handing over Chechen leaders to Russia.
Practically: For these leaders the main possible future scenarios include: Remaining in Syria, whether resettling or moving to specific places which will benefit from their combat experiences; facilitating their evacuation from Syria to other countries; or handing them over to their respective countries of origin where they will be tried.
Unit of Religious Movement - Jusoor for Studies