Washington is Formal: "Coalition members must repatriate the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters currently in detention, and try them for the atrocities they have committed," said the head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo at the opening, Thursday, November 14, a meeting in Washington with counterparts of the international coalition against the Islamic State Organization (IEO).
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The US government has long called on all countries to take back the thousands of jihadists in Kurdish prisons in northeastern Syria. But Turkey's recent offensive in the region against the Kurdish forces, which has caused fears that prisoners will escape, has put their fate at the heart of concerns.
"We think there should be a sense of urgency to repatriate them now, as long as there is still time," warned counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales of the United States. But the participants parted on a finding of disagreement.
Refusal of many countries
US demand is facing the refusal of many countries, including France, to take back their nationals who fought in the ranks of jihadists, not to offend a public opinion scalded by the attacks of recent years in Europe.
The head of the French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian also reaffirmed in Washington that the French jihadists should "be judged as close to the crimes they have committed". He insisted that the actors on the ground guarantee "at all costs" their "safe and durable detention" in order "to avoid that they leave in the fight". France is trying to negotiate with Baghdad so that the Iraqi justice can take care of it.
"It would be irresponsible for a country to wait for Iraq to solve this problem in its place," said Nathan Sales. "To ask countries in the region to import foreign fighters from another country, and to judge and lock them there, is not a viable option," insisted the US official, also sweeping the assumptions international tribunals.
It was Paris that had called for an emergency meeting of the coalition after Turkey's offensive. By announcing the withdrawal of US forces, the US president had left the field open for this Turkish operation, which targeted the Kurdish forces, allied with the Americans in the anti-jihadist struggle. A new Syrian crisis that "threatens" the success of the coalition, according to the final communiqué of the meeting. Because the observation is unanimous: the OEI remains a threat.
After announcing a total withdrawal from Syria, Donald Trump changed course several times, eventually announcing that a "residual force" would remain in Syria to "protect" oil fields. His allies were therefore waiting for a clarification on the American strategy to decide the future of their own participation on Syrian soil.
Mike Pompeo promised that the United States would continue to "lead the coalition, and the world" in the fight against the OEI. Defense Minister Mark Esper had previously said the Pentagon would maintain some 600 troops in Syria. And all US officials assure that the primary mission of these soldiers remains the war against the jihadists - while the reference to the protection of the oil fields has ulcerated several allies.
"We have redeployed some of our troops in northeastern Syria, and more widely in the region, to ensure that the IS never reborn from the ashes, and prevent it from taking over the oil fields," explained Mike Pompeo, trying to reconcile these two missions.