In the frenzied discussions now taking place in Washington about how to prevent the Islamic State terrorist group from making further territorial advances in Iraq and Syria, one topic has been conspicuously absent so far.
America's approach to date has focused on drying up the group's finances, and on slowing its march across Iraq through sporadic bombing. As recent days have shown, however, these tactics have met with only marginal success. Left almost entirely unaddressed has been the human dimension of the problem: namely, the militants who make up the Islamic State themselves.
To be sure, the United States and its allies have made the idea of counter-radicalization a major focus of their efforts. At his much-publicized White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism back in February,
That's a critical error. According to authoritative estimates, roughly 1,000 aspiring foreign holy warriors travel to join the ranks of the Islamic State every month. Moreover, U.S. and foreign officials admit, the overwhelming majority of them do so via a single transit corridor: Turkey.
This state of affairs persists for two major reasons. Politically, the Turkish government has long been an advocate of regime change in neighboring Syria. It has therefore provided a helping hand — or at least turned a blind eye — to assorted opposition forces using its territory as a springboard to join the fight against the Syrian regime, including violent jihadist ones.
Practically, meanwhile, Turkey has become the preferred route for foreign fighters because the country maintains visa-free travel with most of the
Together, these variables have turned Turkey into a veritable funnel for the human capital that helps to sustain and empower the Islamic State. It's a position fundamentally at odds with the country's role as a member of the
Belatedly, the country's ruling Justice and Development Party has begun to abandon its longstanding laissez faire attitude . As of this spring, the Turkish government was estimating that it had banned upward of 12,000 suspected militants, and deported over 1,000 more. That, however, represents just a drop in the bucket. A far more hands-on approach is needed in order to secure Turkey's 800-kilometer common border with Syria, and to make the country a less hospitable destination for foreign extremists in the first place.
Recent days have seen the