The conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and other countries have attracted tens of thousands of foreign fighters, who traveled to those areas of conflict to join the ranks of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other armed groups. While this is not a new phenomenon, the size of the mobilization that occurred with the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was without precedent, with people from at least 80 countries traveling to join the jihadist group. Out of 40,000, it is estimated that about 5,000 came from Europe and almost 19,000 from the MENA region.
Defence and security sectors in several Arab countries have been undergoing significant transformation in recent years, as a result of civil wars, state crisis and fracturing, and external intervention. Fluid coalitions of national armed forces and armed non-state actors are increasingly engaged in complex patterns of de-confliction, coexistence, and cooperation embedded within a wider context of persistent competition and of geopolitical rivalry between an array of external backers. What does this mean for security governance in fragmented states like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon?