The Foreign Fighter Project

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(Last updated December 2013)

Now available from Oxford University Press
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In the Media

WKAR - National Public Radio

TIME Magazine

The Australian



Foreign Policy


London School of Economics Review of Books

While most media reports of foreign fighters concern Islamist insurgents, there have been dozens of other rebel groups over the past two centuries who enlisted foreigners to fight for Communism, their ethnic kin or other religious or ideological causes. I have created a typology of foreign fighters using data combined from the Correlates of War Intrastate War and the PRIO-CSCW Data on Armed Conflict data sets. Among the 331 civil conflicts 1815-2005, at least 70 of them featured the presence of foreign fighters. I welcome any information leading to additions or corrections, either by posting on the message board or contacting me directly at

I also welcome anyone interested in using the data for academic or journalistic purposes to do so if they would be so kind as to cite David Malet, The Foreign Fighter Project, 2007. I would also greatly appreciate copies of manuscripts or articles putting the information to use.

Presentation at The Foreign Fighter Problem conference
Foreign Policy Research Institute
National Press Club, Washington DC
14 July 2009
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Please find the latest version of the data based on Correlates of War Intrastate 3.0 and PRIO-CSCW through 2005. I have made some further changes to the April 2011 version, including the addition of the 1930s Chinese Civil War and 1980s Uganda while modifying or deleting other cases. Now that that PRIO-CSCW data has been updated through 2010, I next plan a more thorough revision using the most recent versions of both source data sets.

Selected Data
Typology (August 2011)
Observation Set (August 2011)

Uses of the Data

"What We Should Have Learned in Iraq"
Global Policy, March 2013

"Why Foreign Fighters? Historical Perspectives and Solutions"
Orbis Journal of Foreign Affairs, 2009

United States Department of State Counter-Terrorism Directorate
Remarks by Amb. Dell Dailey

Robert Pape and James Feldman: Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It

Sam Lasman, Yale Daily News: I Would I Were a Careless Child

Bethanny Stotts, Accuracy in Media: AP Historical Amnesia

Foreign Fighter Resources

Clint Watts: Selected Wisdom

Aaron Zelin

United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa:
Combatants on Foreign Soil

Daniel Kolva, US Army War College:
"Foreign Fighter Interdiction: Stability Operations as Countermeasures"

George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute:
Foreign Fighters: Trends, Trajectories and Conflict Zones Report

George Washington University Conference Event

Foreign Policy Research Institute: The Foreign Fighter Problem

Foreign Policy Research Institute: 
The Foreign Fighter Problem: Recent Trends and Case Studies 

Harmony Project-Combatting Terrorism Center: Sinjar Records

Thomas Hegghammer: The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters

Ernest Harsch: Setting Foreign Fighters on the Road Home

Photograph 6, Annex 10 of Fascist Spanish government report "The Red Domination in Spain" (1946) It originally appeared in the 16 October 1938 edition of "Cronica."