Top officials of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have discussed the possibility of releasing 3,200 ISIS prisoners the militia group has been holding, one day after President Donald Trump said U.S. troops would be leaving Syria, according to The New York Times.
In its fight against ISIS, the SDF has captured a large number of prisoners and has been holding them in northern Syria.
- The SDF currently has about 1,100 ISIS fighters and 2,080 relatives of ISIS members in its custody, the head of the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights told The Times.
- The militia group was discussing the release of the prisoners since it was “concerned that it would need all of its fighters” to defend against Turkey if the U.S. actually leaves.
- “The best result of terrible options is probably for the Syrian regime to take custody of these people,” a Western official told the Times on condition of anonymity. “If they are released it’s a real disaster and major threat to Europe.”
- A spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces did not respond to a request for comment from Task & Purpose.
- Trump seemed to blindside not only his Kurdish allies but the entire national security establishment with his announcement of a troop withdrawal this week.
- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had opposed a pullout and had argued that U.S. should keep a small U.S. presence in the country, according to The Washington Post.
- And one of the president's allies in Congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), blasted the decision as a “huge Obama-like mistake.”
- Still, the Pentagon confirmed it would begin drawing down forces in Syria but did not provide specifics.
- “The coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over,” Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said. “We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.”