US military concerned over ISIS terrorists returning to Caribbean
WASHINGTON, USA -- A top US general has warned that Caribbean countries are unable to track nationals that could return from fighting for ISIS in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The war in Syria has attracted roughly 100 foreign fighters from the Caribbean who could easily make their way to the United States, said General John Kelly, commander of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).
According to the top US military commander for the southern hemisphere, with little ability to track and monitor foreign fighters when they return, it would be relatively easy for those fighters to “walk” north to the US border along the same networks used to traffic drugs and humans,
“They don’t have that ability to track these folks,” Kelly said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday.
Kelly said he is concerned that those who are radicalized enough to leave for Syria would return with greater terrorism skills and motivations.
“I would suspect they’ll get good at, while they’re in Syria, get good at killing and pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and beheadings and things like that. And everyone’s concerned, of course, if they come home. Because if they went over radicalized one would suspect they’ll come home at least that radicalized,” he explained.
There is no indication of any plan to attack the United States, he said, but Americans “take for granted” the nation’s functioning legal system, agencies like the FBI and the layers of uncorrupt law enforcement that can monitor and track potential terrorists in the United States.
“A lot of these countries just don’t have that,” he pointed out.
Kelly said that some of the fighters are recruited and radicalized off the Internet but that there are “a couple of pretty radical mosques” in the region, as well.
“A hundred certainly doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s not, but the countries they come from have a total inability to deal with it,” he said, naming Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Venezuela, in particular.
Kelly’s concern does not necessarily reflect ‘ISIS at the border’ alarmism, rather he is looking at the potential trouble of South American, Central American and Caribbean states in tracking returning fighters for themselves. The solution to preventing ISIS from coming through the southern hemisphere will require law enforcement and intelligence partnering with every state in the region, he said.
“The network that comes up through the isthmus and Mexico that carries anything and everything on it … the amount of movement is what I think overwhelms our ability – and the sophistication of the network – overwhelms our ability to stop everything,” he said.
“I think if they get back to some of these countries that I’ve described, it’s pretty easy for them to move around,” he said.
In the meantime, the Obama administration has reportedly been putting together a plan to address the security vacuum in the region resulting from many years of US inattention but, according to sources in Washington, has been bogged down by political infighting and second guessing.
One of the stumbling blocks in Washington is said to be New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, against whom the Justice Department is reportedly preparing to bring criminal corruption charges.
One of the highest ranking Hispanic members of Congress, Menendez is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has become one of the Obama administration's most vocal Democratic opponents on key foreign policy issues, including President Obama's decision to ease the trade embargo against Cuba.