European Fighters in Syria and Iraq: Assessments, Responses, and Issues for the United States [April 27, 2015] [open pdf - 785KB]
From the Document: "The rising number of U.S. and European citizens traveling to fight with rebel and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq has emerged as a growing concern for U.S. and European leaders, including Members of Congress. Several deadly terrorist attacks in Europe over the past year--including the killing of 17 people in Paris in January 2015--have heightened the perception that these individuals could pose a serious security threat. Increasingly, terrorist suspects in Europe appear to have spent time with groups fighting in the Middle East, especially with the Islamic State organization (also known as ISIL or ISIS). Others, like the gunman who murdered two individuals in Copenhagen in February 2015, seem to have been inspired by Islamist extremist propaganda. U.S. intelligence suggests that more than 20,000 foreign fighters have traveled to the Syria-Iraq region, including at least 3,400 Westerners, since 2011. The vast majority of Western fighters are thought to be from Europe, although roughly 150 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria. U.S. authorities estimate that a handful of Americans have died in the conflict; they also assert that military operations against the Islamic State group since August 2014 have killed thousands of fighters, including an unknown number of foreigners."
CRS Report for Congress, R44003
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html