Officials claim that the number of would-be jihadists from abroad has been drying up. — File Photo

PARIS: The Afghan-Pakistan jihad is attracting fewer foreign fighters following the death of Osama bin Laden, the growing threat posed by US drones, and lack of funds, Western security officials say.

While no precise figure is available, it would appear that the number of would-be jihadists from abroad has been drying up, according to one security official who declined to be named.

However, more Pakistanis are willing to take up the fight and make up the numbers, he also warned.

“Over the past six months, young Frenchmen there have nearly all left Pakistan. There were 20 to 30 of them, who had either converted (to Islam) or had links to the Maghreb; today there are hardly any left,” he said.

“Other European countries whose nationals used to go to Pakistan to join the jihad have drawn the same conclusion -- a drastic reduction over recent months,” he added.

The “Arab Spring” revolts also acted as a magnet, with a number of jihadists moving to Libya to join the fight to remove Moamer Kadhafi from power, he said.

“Fighting in Afghanistan is also less attractive because of the idea that the Afghan Taliban want to concentrate more on home fighting and that world jihad is less and less their cup of tea,” he added.

For Frank Cilluffo, who co-authored “Foreign Fighters” for the Homeland Security Policy Institute, “first and foremost, military actions, including the use of drones, has made the environment less hospitable to foreign fighters travelling to the region, by disrupting al-Qaeda's (and associated entities') training camps and pipelines.”

Direct and indirect accounts by jihadists also speak of disarray within al-Qaeda in north-western Pakistan where activists avoid coming together for fear of being attacked and whose weapons training now takes place indoors because of aerial and satellite surveillance.

In a report, entitled “Militant Pipeline” describing the links between the north-western Pakistani frontier and the West, researcher Paul Cruickshank quotes one Ustadh Ahmad Faruq, described as a Pakistan-based al-Qaeda spokesman who recently acknowledged his network's difficulties.

“The freedom we enjoyed in a number of regions has been lost. We are losing people and lack resources. Our land is being squeezed and drones fly over us,” he reportedly said in an audio cassette. “It's difficult to have reliable figures,” on the number of foreign fighters, according to Cruickshank, who is a fellow at New York University's Centre on Law and Security.

“I think the drone strikes have been a major issue for the militants, the death of bin Laden is going to be a very big challenge as well. He was so important for a lot of these militants -- he was the al-Qaeda brand.

“By going over there they were joining his cause. The fact that he has been removed from the scene is likely to be a great recruiting challenge for al-Qaeda,” he said.

“But the conflict is still going on in Afghanistan and in the radical circles it is still viewed as a very legitimate jihad. So it's likely that the number of volunteers is going to be diminished, but as long as there are US soldiers to fight, I don't think it's going to dry up entirely,” he added.

Hafiz Hanif, a 17-year-old Afghan who trained in northwest Pakistan, recently told Newsweek magazine the number of foreign fighters there was dwindling.

“When new people came they brought new blood, enthusiasm and money. All that has been lost. Now leaders seem to spend all their time moving from one place to another for their safety,” he said.


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Comments (3) (Closed)


Love Pak
Feb 10, 2012 03:09pm
Welldone Drones.
Abdur R. Talukder
Feb 12, 2012 03:24pm
Whose drones your own or the foreigners? Is your sovereignty well protected or, neglected or,abused?
Pakistani
Feb 13, 2012 01:20pm
What sovereignty do people speak of when drones bomb the tribal belts? A part of our country where I don't even dare going? That sovereign part? Where the Taliban have self-declared "Islamic emirate of Waziristan"? Drones have done an amazing job and the country has a lot to thank to General Ashfaq Kayani. A brilliant man who did what had to be done. The menace of the movement had to dealt with iron fists and he did just that. People of Pakistan would rather have a tribal belt infested with radicals bombing different areas of Pakistan killing countless innocent Muslims rather than a foreign power help us eliminate the mess we've created and fostered all these years? The hypocrisy is suffocating honestly. Go to Waziristan and Orakzai and Mohmand Agencies and embrace them as fellows if you dare. You won't. All you can and you will is decry the good done by USA and Kayani from the comfort of your chairs and go back to thinking of ways to escape to the western nations if the opportunity presents itsself. God bless Pakistan.