A series of recent prison breaks is providing a great deal of militants to fight in Iraq and Syria. According to recent developments, a number of radical militants that were imprisoned in Iraq have escaped and become a major part of opposition against the US in Iraq and joined militant groups in Syria. The prison breaks have not been reported on heavily, and the militants that have escaped are becoming a major part of regional insurgencies.
A series of daring but little noticed breakouts from Iraqi prisons has freed hundreds of hardened militants who are now among the leaders and foot soldiers of the radical Sunni groups operating in neighboring Syria and, increasingly, in Iraq itself.
The role of the former inmates in fueling a new wave of Sunni jihad across the region is an unfortunate reminder of the breakdown of authority in Iraq since the United States departed in 2011, of the security vacuum that has spread around the region and of the continuing threat of Sunni-led terrorist groups that the United States said it was fighting during its occupation of Iraq.
The prison breaks also reflect the surging demand for experienced fighters, which led to a concerted effort by militant groups, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, to seek them in the one place where they were held en masse — Iraq’s prison cells.
That group even had a name for its prison strategy, “Operation Breaking the Walls,” which unfolded during a 12-month campaign from July 2012 until a major break at Abu Ghraib, the main Iraqi prison, on the western outskirts of the capital, in July 2013. In all, American officials estimate, a few hundred of the escapees have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, several in senior leadership roles.