One of the most enduring traditions of civil wars is the presence of foreign fighters in the various parties. While many of them are mercenaries, many are also there for romantic reasons, fighting for a “greater good”. They follow in the footsteps of more prominent foreign fighters like Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell or André Malraux. However, since the resurgence of terrorism in the mid-1990s, particularly the advent of Al-Qaeda, former foreign fighters have often been involved in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks, using their experience in the wars in Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia. With numerous ongoing civil conflicts in the Middle-East – especially in Syria, North Africa and Asia – many security analysts are now increasingly worried about the danger of returning foreign fighters, and how they could return as sleeper agents to conduct terrorist attacks. Is this a legitimate concern? Should Western states with large Muslim populations, like Germany and the United Kingdom, invest more resources on monitoring foreign fighters? What is the appeal and are returning fighters more likely to become terrorists than others? You can watch the full discussion below.


  • Florian Peil is a security analyst & consultant, intelligence and Islamic studies specialist with many years of experience living in the Arab world. He consults organisations that operate in the Middle East and North Africa. His function: identification, assessment and prevention of risks through terrorism, political upheavals and crime. His interdisciplinary work at the interface of  security, intelligence and  regional expertise guarantee a holistic observation of operational risks.
  • Daniel Köhler is Director of Research Operations at the Institute for the Study of Radical Movements (ISRM) and completed his first degree in the field of Religious Studies, Economics, and Political Science at Princeton University and the Free University Berlin. After his MA he continued his studies at the University of Hamburg and graduated as best of the class 2010/2011 in the Master of Peace and Security Studies program. He authored numerous English and German academic and non-academic articles and studies about radicalization processes, right-wing extremism and deradicalization. He appeared on international and national media as expert on right-wing extremism and terrorism. Research Interests: Radicalization Processes, Political and Religious Extremism, Deradicalization and Disengagement.
  • Claudia Dantschke is Project Director at the "Zentrum für demokratische Kultur" (ZDK) currently working on the implementation of a study about phenomenons that threathen democracy and possible intervention strategies in Berlin. Since 2004 she is also consultant for the SPD, responsible for questions on the integration of Muslims and the influence of islamic groups. Dantschke has authored several publications on Islamism, right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism.
The third MOSECON Luncheon took on the currently hottest subject in the security field. Amid the media hype surrounding the foreign fighters in Syria, Claudia Dantschke, Florian Peil and Daniel Koehler, set out to separate the facts from the impressions and provided our guests and viewers with a concise assessment of the security threat returning foreign fighters represent. Watch the full event below.