Trump's threat to dump thousands of ISIS fighters into Europe could end up hurting the US's fiercest ally in Syria

David Choi

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 

  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to dump thousands of Islamic State prisoners in Europe if the countries they originated from refused to take them back in.

  • "We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them," Trump said. "If Europe doesn't take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places."

  • The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed Kurdish group, is detaining the lion's share of ISIS fighters.

  • Trump's suggestion also comes amid plans to reduce the US's 2,000 troops in Syria, stoking fears of a rekindling of the jihadist movement throughout the country and beyond.

  • This leaves a precarious situation for the SDF, which relies on the presence of US personnel but has the responsibility of holding thousands of prisoners in makeshift facilities.

  • Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.

Trump Iraq

President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to dump thousands of Islamic State prisoners in Europe if the countries they originated from refused to take them back in.

Speaking with reporters at the White House, Trump specifically mentioned France and Germany as two countries where its citizens who pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS, could be dropped off.

"We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them," Trump said. "If Europe doesn't take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places."

Trump's suggestion for the US to release the prisoners comes amid plans to reduce its 2,000 troops in Syria, stoking fears of a rekindling of the jihadist movement throughout the country and beyond and ultimately hurting the global fight against ISIS.

This leaves a precarious situation for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed Kurdish group that relies on the presence of US personnel — and has the responsibility of holding thousands of prisoners in makeshift facilities.

The SDF is detaining the lion's share of ISIS fighters. The SDF had detained 9,000 militants in Syria by April, according to US military officials. The military also estimated that 1,000 of them hailed from 50 countries.

Read more: A scathing new Pentagon report blames Trump for the return of ISIS in Syria and Iraq

A recent inspector general's report from the international task force battling ISIS noted that the reduction in US forces reduced the task force's ability to maintain "visibility" at a refugee camp, which "created conditions that allow ISIS ideology to spread 'uncontested.'"

The US State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said the US was urging other nations to repatriate the ISIS fighters and prosecute them.

"Across the coalition, we need to prosecute ISIS leaders, fighters, financiers, and facilitators for the crimes they've committed," Sales said earlier in August. "That includes building the law-enforcement capacity of partner states that have the will to act but might lack the resources or expertise to do so. It also means repatriating and prosecuting foreign terrorist fighters."

About 1,050 Germans joined the Islamic State in the Middle East after 2013, and about 1,190 French citizens joined the group, according to Soufan Center, the global security nonprofit group. Following the collapse of ISIS' bastions in Iraq and Syria, scores of these foreign nationals were either killed or captured by coalition forces — leaving many of the prisoners' fates in limbo as their governments debate on their status.

In June, France passed legislation to repatriate French jihadists on a case-by-case basis — 12 French and two Dutch orphans whose parents were militants were transported to France. Germany also considered children as "victims" and has allowed them to be repatriated.

NOW WATCH: What El Chapo is really like, according to the wife of one his closest henchman