(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Ambassador Gary Quinlan of Australia, Chairman of the UN Security Council AI-Qaida Sanctions Committee, on Wednesday said the return of thousands of battle-hardened foreign fighters with new skills and ideas from Syria represents a "cause of concern" to their native countries in the Arab world, Europe and elsewhere.
"As thousands of foreign fighters engage in conflict alongside local militants (in Syria), ties are established that the Monitoring Team predicts could lead to new pan-Arab and pan-European networks of extremists," Quinlan told the Council as it met to hear briefings by the chairs of its subsidiary bodies on terrorism. "Furthermore, the return of these battle hardened foreign fighters to their countries of origin - or to third countries - with new ideas and skills is a cause for concern," he said. "Member states in North Africa, the Middle-East and Europe are already grappling with the reality of returning fighters with experience of working with Al-Qaida affiliates.
"For these reasons, the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee will continue to maintain a global approach to the threat," he vowed.
He added that Al-Qaida has gained "dexterity not only geographically, but also structurally," noting that the trend towards ever-increasing recruitment of foreign fighters has given Al-Qaida and its affiliates a "more global reach in a number of theatres of operation," and that this strategy has been employed with particular rigour in the Syrian context. He also indicated that "generationally, Al-Qaida is getting younger - with leaders increasingly shaped by the experience of current social dynamics rather than the experiences of the 1990s." He also quoted from the Monitoring Team's report which noted that leadership positions within Al-Qaida are being taken up by men in their late 30s and 40s. "With this generational shift comes new philosophical perspectives and outreach techniques," he said.
For instance, he added, among the new generation of Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria, a "younger perspective has resulted in increased propensity for violence and less tolerance for local religious leadership." With Al-Qaida affiliates in Africa and Asia, he said, mid-level commanders bring technological knowledge and a focus on innovative attack planning. "Younger leaders are also more adept at connecting with the next generation of recruits, in particular through the sophisticated use of social media." While organisationally Al-Qaida is more splintered, he argued, "the shift towards diverse and localised recruitment also means that it is more durable than before. This trend is further amplified by the scope for domestic radicalisation in a number of member states, where violent Al-Qaida inspired cells may generate largely autonomously, influenced by internet propaganda but disconnected from Al-Qaida affiliate command structures." He recalled that Al-Qaida and its affiliates take advantage of local conflicts or situations of limited State control, noting that when a political situation shifts and opportunities arise to bolster Al-Qaida's agenda, the group and its affiliates "have become adept at quickly seizing these opportunities to regroup and strengthen." Similarly, he added, restoration of political stability and security in one region does not necessarily serve to weaken the threat posed by Al-Qaida and its affiliates. "It may simply mean that terrorists find safe havens and opportunities elsewhere." He said the shift in geographical focus of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in particular demonstrates this adaptability, explaining that AQIM militants have moved away from Mali and Algeria to regroup in southern Libya. He vowed that the Committee "remains dedicated to ensuring that the Al-Qaida sanctions regime is as effective as possible" by maintaining a sanctions list that most effectively responds to the scourge.