A Problem for Tomorrow? Tunisia, Morocco, and Foreign Fighters



The civil war in Syria created the conditions for the emergence of the Islamic State (IS). It started attracting fighters from all over the region and later took the control of parts of Iraq. Militants came from all over the world, although regional countries represented the most important sources of recruitments for IS. In this context, Tunisia and Morocco played a very significant role as a very substantial number of IS fighters come from these two countries. As such, and the case of Tunisia and the attacks it suffered in 2015 are very indicative, this issue will remain at the forefront of the security agenda for both countries in the foreseeable future. In the very beginning, both countries turned a blind eye on militants’ movement to Syria and Iraq, mainly to reduce the burden on national security services. However, once IS took over parts of Syria and Iraq, it was clear that the nature of the threat was changing and both countries started adopting a more proactive approach to fighting terrorism. The background of Tunisian and Moroccan militants is often similar: they mostly come from impoverished suburban areas and neglected rural and mountainous regions, often distant from the actual centres of – either formal or informal – economic and political power. However, the outcomes of these efforts have been different: Tunisia, as shown by the attacks that the country suffered in 2015, has so far struggled to find an effective solution, and the establishment of IS fighters in neighbouring Libya represents a further threat. Moreover, many IS fighters in Libya are Tunisians who either moved from Syria and Iraq or reached Libya straight from Tunisia. In addition, it is very likely that the changes that occurred in the post-Ben Ali security forces in Tunisia reduced the security services’ capacities of tackling these issues. In Morocco, instead, efforts have been more successful, but in the medium term this will continue to represent a substantial threat, whose impact goes well beyond the narrower security domain.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vesalius College (VUB)BrusselsBelgium

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