War On Terror: U.S. officials report that more than 1,000 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month as a United Nations report says that the terrorist influx has reached an "unprecedented scale."
More than 15,000 foreign fighters from as many as 80 countries have streamed into Syria and Iraq since 2010. The flow continues on "an unprecedented scale," according to the U.N. report, obtained by Britain's Guardian newspaper.
These fighters have come from such unlikely places as the Maldive Islands. The group's videos feature jihadists with Chilean, Norwegian and other backgrounds.
"There are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island operating together," the report notes.
An Islamic State video showed British hostage Alan Henning being beheaded by a fighter with a British accent. More than 500 British citizens are said to have traveled to the region since 2011.
The U.N. analysis dovetails with a report in the Washington Post that, according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials, more than a thousand foreign fighters are pouring into Syria each month, "a rate that has so far been unchanged by airstrikes against the Islamic State and efforts by other countries to stem the flow of departures."
"The rate of travel into Syria (by foreign fighters) is greater than we saw into Afghanistan prior to 9/11," said Randy Blake, a senior strategic adviser in the U.S. Office of Director of National Intelligence, in remarks Tuesday before the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Florida.
"It's greater than anything we've seen into Afghanistan, into Yemen, into Somalia, into Iraq or anything we've seen in the last 10-year period."
Contrast this flurry of Islamic State activity with the statement by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, who told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that the recruiting and vetting of the 5,000 Syrian rebel soldiers supposed to get a year's training in Saudi Arabia has not even started. That's not even five months worth of Islamic State recruiting.
"At this point, we still don't know how long it's going to take to send in the trained guys," a senior Defense Department official told the Daily Beast.
"The situation is changing so much on the ground it's hard to plan it out."
At a briefing in September, as he sat alongside Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Dempsey said that it would take up to 15,000 ground troops to go after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria effectively — but President Obama has said that boots on the ground are not an option.
"The answer is yes. There has to be a ground component in the campaign," Dempsey said. "We need 12,000 to 15,000 to reclaim lost territory."
He was referring to the huge swath of land that the Islamic State has carved out in the Middle East. Airstrikes alone have not and will not reclaim it.
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said, "There's no question that they (the Islamic State jihadists) still possess the ability to reconstitute their manpower, and that's just an indication of the strength of their ideology right now."
Unfortunately, it's also an indication of their perception of American weakness, not power, and of a presidential trumpet that sounds only retreat.
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