In the largest IDP camp, called al-Hol, ISIS now exerts more influence and control than the few dozen SDF guards stationed there, according to U.S. officials, lawmakers and experts, Starts and Stripes newspaper wrote.
ISIS women have created a morality police corps inside the camp, enforcing shariah law and even conducting brutal executions, officials said.
ISIS is recruiting from the camp, smuggling fighters in and out and using it to plan attacks in other parts of Syria, officials said according to Stars and Stripes. If it’s not already effectively Caliphate 2.0, it soon will be, the officials said.
“The IDP camp al-Hol is quickly becoming a minicaliphate and a fertile recruiting ground for ISIS,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Stars and Stripes. “The security footprint around the camp is incredibly weak, and the camp is being run by ISIS types under our very nose.”
About 11,000 of the 70,000 mostly women and children in al-Hol come from countries outside of Iraq or Syria. Most of those countries have refused to take back their citizens, leaving them in squalid conditions that make ISIS recruiting easier. The United States has taken back 21 ISIS IDPs and is prosecuting all those who traveled to Syria as adults. But most European countries have refused; some have even stripped ISIS members of their citizenship.
“The European response when it comes to ISIS fighters has been pathetic and dangerous,” said Graham. “When it comes to al-Hol, the red lights are blinking. We ignore it at our own peril.”
Trump, frustrated with Europe’s stance, actually threatened to “release” thousands of ISIS fighters to Europe, which was likely a joke. But absent some action, they could get there anyway. Officials said that al-Hol residents affiliated with ISIS have already shown up in different parts of Syria and Turkey.
The security and humanitarian crisis in al-Hol is made worse by the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeast Syria and the uncertainty of the U.S. commitment there.
The Trump administration has been vague about its plans in Syria, partially because Trump’s officials know the president could pull the plug on the entire operation anytime. But that ambiguity undermines the American leadership needed to address this crisis.
In addition to repatriating family members, the international community must address how to keep the hardcore fighters locked up and come up with a prison system that doesn’t depend on the SDF alone, Stars and Stripes wrote.
The United States must immediately increase security at the prisons and the camps. There must be some effort to deradicalize the children who can be saved. If all this isn’t done soon, the entire U.S. strategy to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS will be rendered meaningless.
According to the United Nations, 65% of al-Hol residents are under age 12 and 20,000 are under 5, meaning they were born in the first caliphate. If we allow these children to grow up in Caliphate 2.0, our children will be the ones we have to send back there to fight them someday.
Source: Stars and Stripes.