Why did some American citizens choose to travel to fight in Syria and Iraq rather than engage in Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-inspired terrorism in the United States? We conducted a social network analysis (SNA) on a sample (n = 224) of extremists who either plotted ISIS-inspired attacks within the United States or attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq to join the group between 2013-2020. We test how network size, network interconnectedness, and the importance of trusted network members impact the choice of American ISIS offenders to travel or plot terrorist attacks. Our results show that Americans were more likely to choose to travel to fight when they had access to large, dense networks that were embedded with trusted associates. Those without access to similar networks abandoned their preferences for foreign fighting and instead plotted attacks within the United States. The findings provide pertinent policy implications for countering violent extremism.
Jensen, Michael A., Neil Ferguson, Sheehan Kane, and Gary LaFree. 2023. "Choosing Where to Fight: Do Social Networks Distinguish American ISIS Foreign Fighters from ISIS-Inspired Terrorists?" Journal of Conflict Resolution, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/00220027231164925