US Spy Chief Says 40 Americans Who Went to Syria Have Returned
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - About 180 Americans traveled to Syria to join ISIL militants and around 40 of them have returned to the United States, the US National Intelligence director, James Clapper, said on Monday.
Clapper said not all those who went to Syria had engaged in the ISIL campaign. Some might have been aid workers, he said.
The United States and its allies believe that more than 20,000 foreign fighters from more than 90 countries have gone to Syria. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces have taken over large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
US officials have expressed concern that some Americans, radicalized and trained to stage attacks in Syria, may wreak havoc when they come home. Clapper said he was not aware of any plots in which returning fighters had been involved.
He told a forum at the Council of Foreign Relations that as long as such travelers did not become engaged in violence, it was their "privilege as American citizens" to return to the United States.
Clapper said donations to extremist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda affiliates by governments and private parties in Muslim countries had recently declined, and said that was partly because of stepped up oversight by governments in the region, Reuters reported.
He acknowledged that US efforts to recruit, vet and train "moderate" Syrian rebels would be a prolonged effort.
"The issue is the time it is going to take ... to get the ... firepower that will have an impact," he said.