Intelligence officials testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday confessed that they couldn’t say how many Americans who have fought alongside foreign Islamic extremists may have returned to the United States.
“We know what we know, but we understand there is intelligence we don’t have,” Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security, according to Fox News. “But it’s possible there are great numbers.”
This chilling assessment was echoed by FBI counterterrorism expert Michael Steinbach, who told committee members that despite their best intelligence, “This is a number we don’t know about.”
The intelligence officials testified that at least 3,400 individuals from Western countries have joined Islamic State and other extremist groups in the Middle East, a rate that Rasmussen described as being “without precedent.”
That number includes an estimated 150 Americans who have attempted to reach the Syrian war zone, but officials declined to say how many may have returned. FBI Director James Comey testified a few months earlier that “about a dozen” Americans had actually made it to Syria and were engaged in fighting on the side of the insurgents.
Especially worrisome is that those returning to U.S. soil bring with them specialized training in explosives honed by actual battle experience and have access to Islamic State terrorist networks.
With no U.S. embassy in Syria, tracking Islamic State recruits becomes next to impossible after they reach the war zone.
“Once in Syria, it is very difficult to discern what happens there,” Steinbach said. “This lack of clarity remains troubling.”
Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, called Islamic State fighters “barbaric terrorists” whom U.S. officials “must keep out of the homeland to protect the American people.”
The State Department’s interest in resettling tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into the United State exacerbates the problem, creating a situation that McCaul called a potential “federally funded jihadi pipeline.”
The Obama administration’s decision to keep U.S. borders porous only adds to the problem, and its passive “leading from behind” foreign policy is clearly a failure.
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