US President Donald Trump demanded Sunday that European countries “take back” their citizens who fought with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and put them on trial.
“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump tweeted.
He then reiterated his claim that “The Caliphate is ready to fall.”
Trump warned that if EU countries did not repatriate the terrorists “we will be forced to release them.”
“The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go,” Trump said.
The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them……..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2019
The president then repeated his complaint that EU countries were not paying their fair share of defense costs and claimed again that IS had been defeated.
“We do so much, and spend so much – Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!” he said.
At its height, between 27,000 and 31,000 jihadis may have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State group, according to an analysis by the Soufan Group. Of those, about 6,000 were from Europe, with most from France, Germany and Britain.
Earlier this month, the top general overseeing US military actions in the Middle East, US Army General Joseph Votel, said that Trump did not consult him ahead of deciding to pull American troops from Syria and told senators that despite Trump’s claims, IS has not yet been defeated.
Trump is in an ongoing feud with the US intelligence community, which has warned that IS can quickly rebuild into a cohesive force in any vacuum left in the war-torn country.
Jihadist fighters defending the last dregs of the Islamic State group’s “caliphate” Saturday were holed up in half a square kilometer of a village in eastern Syria.
Trump had announced that the fall of the IS proto-state would be declared Saturday, but a Syrian commander said his US-backed forces slowed down their advance to protect civilians.
The jihadists declared a “caliphate” in large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, but have since lost all but a tiny patch of territory in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.
“IS is besieged in a neighborhood that is estimated to be 700 meters long and 700 meters wide,” said Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Jia Furat.
“Baghouz is within our firing range but we are moving cautiously considering there are civilians still trapped there as human shields,” said Furat, the overall commander for the operation.
“In a very short time, not longer than a few days, we will officially announce the end of IS’s existence,” he told reporters at a nearby SDF base.
American defense officials are increasingly fearful that the jihadists are simply biding their time until the Americans leave the battlefield as planned.
A Defense Department watchdog report released February 4 warned that if measures weren’t taken following a US troop pullout from Syria, “it is very likely that ISIS will have the opportunity to set conditions for future resurgence and territorial control.”
The US Army’s Central Command said that the Islamic State group is “regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria,” but unless there is sustained counterterrorism pressure, IS militants “could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory” in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.