Congressional report: U.S. has ‘failed’ to stop flow of foreign fighters to ISIS

Updated 8:30 PM EDT, Tue September 29, 2015
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28:  (AFP OUT)  Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama shake hands for the cameras before the start of a bilateral meeting at the United Nations headquarters September 28, 2015 in New York City. Putin and Obama are in New York City to attend the 70th anniversary general assembly meetings.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: (AFP OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama shake hands for the cameras before the start of a bilateral meeting at the United Nations headquarters September 28, 2015 in New York City. Putin and Obama are in New York City to attend the 70th anniversary general assembly meetings. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:14
Obama and Putin battle over ISIS
A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May).
Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks.
One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî.
His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack.
He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group.
Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems.
All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017.
Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June.
Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself.
ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty.
ìThe judge will now deci
PHOTO: Greater Manchester Police
A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May). Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks. One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî. His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack. He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group. Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems. All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017. Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June. Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself. ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty. ìThe judge will now deci
Now playing
02:00
Man convicted after threat to Prince George
the fall of ISIS_00013506.jpg
the fall of ISIS_00013506.jpg
Now playing
01:54
Fears of a new frontier in terror
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
04:32
Mosul survivors search for loved ones
inside a former isis jail in raqqa paton walsh_00001610.jpg
inside a former isis jail in raqqa paton walsh_00001610.jpg
Now playing
02:52
Inside former ISIS jails in Raqqa
where is isis leader abu bakr al baghdadi pkg paton walsh_00015316.jpg
PHOTO: ISIS
where is isis leader abu bakr al baghdadi pkg paton walsh_00015316.jpg
Now playing
02:06
Hunting for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
raqqa stadium damon lklv_00002813.jpg
raqqa stadium damon lklv_00002813.jpg
Now playing
01:46
ISIS used stadium as prison
Raqqa,Syria
PHOTO: CNN
Raqqa,Syria
Now playing
02:31
Walking through the ruins of Raqqa
kidnapped yazidi child raised by american isis fighter damon pkg_00003130.jpg
kidnapped yazidi child raised by american isis fighter damon pkg_00003130.jpg
Now playing
03:06
Kidnapped Yazidi boy raised by American ISIS mother
PHOTO: Gabriel Chaim
Now playing
01:48
Exclusive GoPro footage inside Raqqa conflict
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:40
CNN inside Raqqa, former ISIS stronghold
FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
PHOTO: AP
FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
Now playing
01:25
Why Raqqa matters
Now playing
01:13
How ISIS is evolving
PHOTO: gabriel chaim
Now playing
01:42
Raqqa drone video shows ISIS execution square
(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 
The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold.
 / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold. / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:38
ISIS leader seemingly breaks silence

Story highlights

More than 25,000 foreigners have flocked to war-torn Syria and Iraq since 2011 to fight with Islamist terrorist groups

The task force, commissioned by the House Homeland Security Committee, called for an overhaul of the U.S. strategy

(CNN) —  

The U.S. is losing the battle to stop Americans from traveling abroad to enlist in ISIS, a bipartisan congressional task force concluded in a report released Tuesday.

The determination came out at the same time that President Barack Obama was chairing a U.N. summit on countering violent extremism, in which he stressed America’s successes in combating ISIS even as he acknowledged that more needed to be done on this “very difficult challenge.”

More than 25,000 foreigners have flocked to war-torn Syria and Iraq since 2011 to fight with Islamist terrorist groups including ISIS, according to U.S. government estimates noted in the report.

“Despite concerted efforts to stem the flow, we have largely failed to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists,” the task force determined in its report.

READ: U.S. official: 10,000-plus ISIS fighters killed in 9-month campaign

In just the last nine months, more than 7,000 foreign fighters have swelled the ranks of those radical militant groups waging war and committing atrocities in Iraq and Syria. And while most recruits continue to come from the Middle East and North Africa, thousands of Westerners have traveled to fight in the region – including more than 250 Americans, more than half of which have left in the last year.

Those figures prompted the eight-member task force, commissioned by the House Homeland Security Committee and including three House Democrats, to call for an overhaul of the U.S. strategy to stem the flow and threat of foreign fighters in what the task force called “the largest global convergence of jihadists in history.”

“We have to have a strategy to deal with this: both a military strategy abroad, a political solution, but also a prevention strategy here in the United States to prevent this threat,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference announcing the reports conclusions Tuesday.

Meanwhile, at the U.N. summit on how to counter ISIS and the threat of extremism worldwide, Obama touted the work of the U.S.-led coalition in making gains against ISIS as well as the work of countries to strengthen laws “to disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.”

“We share more information and we are strengthening border controls. We’ve prevented would-be fighters from reaching the battlefields and returning to threaten our countries. But this remains a very difficult challenge and today we are going to focus how we can do more together,” Obama said Tuesday.

And while Russia and Iran did not attend the forum, Obama reiterated at the meeting that “we are prepared to work with all countries, including Russia and Iran, to find a political mechanism” to transition Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power.

Federal officials, for their part, have ramped up their efforts to stop and arrest individuals inspired by ISIS to either travel to Syria and Iraq or carry out attacks on U.S. soil, but gaps still remain. Of the more than 250 American who sought to travel to Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials caught just 28 before they could make it to the region, according to the task force’s report.

The task force also estimated that women account for more than 30 of the 250-plus Americans who have traveled to join extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd, who worked for nine years as an undercover CIA agent, said that while coordination between agencies fighting to prevent attacks on U.S. soil still needs work, he said he’s noticed improvements.

“One of the good things is information sharing has improved since I joined the CIA back in 2000, but there’s still a lot more work to be done,” Hurd said Tuesday.

The group also pointed to gaps in international intelligence sharing efforts, noting that “there is currently no comprehensive global database of foreign fighter names.”

READ: Boots on the ground: The foreign volunteers training anti-ISIS fighters

“Instead, countries including the United States rely on a patchwork system for swapping individual extremist identities,” the report found, calling that system “an inherently weak arrangement that increases the odds a foreign fighter will be able to cross border(s) undetected when traveling to and from a terrorist sanctuary.”

The fighters pose “a triple threat,” the group wrote in a summary of its findings: “they strengthen terrorist groups, incite others back home to conduct attacks, and can return themselves to launch acts of terror.”

The flow of foreign fighters is continuing to fuel the conflict in Iraq and Syria, allowing groups like ISIS to replenish their ranks even as U.S. officials assess more than 10,000 extremist fighters have been killed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes since that bombing campaign launched in the summer 2014.

ISIS’s force currently consists of between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters according to the latest CIA estimate – mimicking the group’s numbers in fall 2014.

Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, called the threat of foreign fighters “clear and alarming” and said the task force’s report would help focus attention on the foreign fighter issue.

“The threat of a terrorist-trained extremist returning to the United States from the battlefields in Iraq and Syria is serious, and we must do what we can to prevent it,” he said.