Pentagon Exaggerates ISIS Foreign Fighter Estimates to Justify Staying in Syria

Gen. Dunford claims ISIS attracting 100 new foreign fighters monthly

Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher for the right-wing, and generally hawkish Middle East Forum, has faulted new statements this week from the Pentagon as having greatly exaggerated the number of foreign ISIS fighters, and the number still joining ISIS, in an attempt to try to justify the continued US military presence in Syria.

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joe Dunford told a conference on Tuesday that ISIS remains “resilient, determined and adaptable,” and claimed that 100 new foreign fighters are recruited by the ground every single month.

Though ISIS was wildly successful at attracting foreign fighters during its prime, when it established a “caliphate” spanning much of Syria and parts of Iraq. With no real territory left, however, it is hard to imagine recruitment is anywhere near so high for them.

Tamimi noted that ISIS’ distance from the Turkish border means that’s no longer a place to get recruits, and getting in through Iraq would be no easier. These claims seem to be built around the need to keep using ISIS to justify keeping troops in Syria, and Tamimi noted that it would “be much harder for the US to explain its presence as an official counter-Iran mission.”

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.