Trump administration signals ISIS foreign fighters could be sent to Guantanamo Bay
Xeber24.net – Yahoo News
As President Donald Trump seeks to wind down the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, his administration is increasingly leaving open the possibility that some of the group’s foreign fighters be sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Trump has advocated as a private citizen, presidential candidate and even while in office to move more detainees to the facility. It was a stark contrast to his predecessor, who unsuccessfully sought to close it. As president, however, Trump has sent no one to Guantanamo.
Instead, his administration is pushing for foreign ISIS fighters detained in Syria to be returned to their home countries, in the region and in Europe. That effort has, so far, been met with mixed success.
Administration officials, including the State Department’s deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino, have said options for foreign fighters who cannot be repatriated include Guantanamo, sometimes referred to as Gitmo.
“Our preferred first option would certainly be repatriation and prosecution, keeping [foreign terrorist fighters] locked up in countries of origin when possible, where possible,” a senior State Department official told ABC News. “But when countries aren’t willing to take responsibility for their own citizens that went and fought for the Islamic State, if they are high-value detainees, and members of ISIS leadership, then we’re going to make certain that they remain off the battlefield. One way of doing that might include sending them to Gitmo.”
There are approximately 850 foreign fighters still in the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.-backed troops now fighting the last remnants of ISIS in eastern Syria.
“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 Saturday. “The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.
“Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing.”
That is still the administration’s preferred option, according to several officials.
But as the last of ISIS’s territory falls and the U.S. prepares to withdraw its forces, there is growing concern about the SDF’s ability to detain foreign terrorist fighters, especially those considered “high-value” — less than 10 percent of the current detainees.
“It’s untenable. They just don’t have the infrastructure or ability to do so, especially as U.S. troops are starting to be pulled out, and it just becomes harder and harder to run open-air detention camps,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.