According to James Clapper, director of the US National Intelligence, up to 26000 militants share extremist ideologies and are the most brutal.
“Somewhere in the neighborhood of between 20,000 and maybe up to a top range of 26,000 we regard as extremists,” he said. “And they are disproportionately influential because they are among the most effective fighters on the battlefield.”
The US official stated that there are 75000 foreign militants from 50 countries operating in Syria and noted that many of them are al-Qaeda militants who’ve flocked to the Arab country from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He also said militants fighting against the Syrian government have turned the crisis in the Arab country into “an apocalyptic disaster.”
“They’re terrible. And when you consider the humanitarian disaster in addition to the 2.5 million refugees, the 6.5 million or 7 million that are internally displaced, the 134,000 plus people that have been killed, it is an apocalyptic disaster,” he told the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
He went on to say that Syria has become a source of regional instability and is a security threat to both Europe and the US.
This comes as the United States more than doubled its supply of weaponry and munitions to militants linked to the so-called Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Command in January. The military command is aligned with the Western-backed opposition the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC).
The United States has also delivered over 600 tons of military aid to militants since the talks on Syria known as Geneva II kicked off in Switzerland on January 22.
Syria has been gripped by a deadly conflict since March 2011.