Saturday, February 25, 2017
When the fighting stops
Win or lose, countries that provided recruits for the fight have to face the problem of the return of those still alive. Imbued with ideology, innured to the destruction and hooked on the adrenaline rush of facing death and surviving, they seldom easily fit into the peaceful land they return to.
Tunisia has sent more fighters abroad to join the ranks of the Islamic State than any other country. And now, as the Islamic State takes a battering on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, the country is at odds over what to do if and when they come home.Like fighting cancer, if all the cells don't die, it will just keep coming back.
Tunisians have been dealing with a frenzied polemic in recent weeks, as secularists have raised fears that a returning wave will bring further mayhem to this fragile state and Islamists have been forced to condemn the jihadists.
“How can we accept those people who are professionals in war, in the use of arms and have a culture of being terrorists?” asked Badra Gaaloul, a civil-military analyst who heads the International Center of Strategic, Security and Military Studies. “We in Tunisia are in crisis, and we cannot accept these people.”
“It is a nightmare for Tunisia,” she added. “We are not ready for that.”
The concern is not academic. Ms. Gaaloul, among others, points to the experience of Algeria, which suffered through a decade-long insurgency in the 1990s when jihadists returned from Afghanistan set on establishing Islamic law, and the army led a brutal war to crush them.
Already there are signs that some of the 5,500 Tunisians who have gone abroad, according to United Nations estimates, are seeking new targets at home and in Europe, where Tunisians have been implicated in several recent terrorist cases in France and Germany.
For Tunisia, there is no easy solution. The new Constitution does not allow the government to bar them. They can be locked up for joining a terrorist group, or for committing crimes abroad, but cases are hard to build and charges difficult to prove. The president proposed amnesty, only to be vigorously opposed.
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