WASHINGTON— Hundreds of foreign Islamic State fighters have been captured in Syria and what to do with them has become a problem for the Trump administration as it prepares to pull American troops from the country.
An administration official said determining the fate of these prisoners, who include Europeans and some US citizens, is a priority as the US lays the groundwork with allies to comply with President Donald Trump’s order to withdraw the 2,000 American troops from Syria. Those troops have worked alongside the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) to fight IS since 2015.
The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss private deliberations about policy and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday that releasing the fighters would be “unacceptable” because of concerns that they could rejoin IS militants in Syria or elsewhere.
“This matters because SDF holds hundreds of IS fighters, including many European citizens, and they might go free if no solution is found,” said Bobby Chesney, a national security law expert at the University of Texas.