EU to Trump: Repatriating terrorist citizens "not as easy" as you think

The deuce you sayAfter Donald Trump challenged European nations to take custody of citizens captured by Syrian Democratic Forces in the waning days of the ISIS “caliphate,” EU members complained that Trump made it sound too simple. “It’s not as easy as they think in America,” said Germany’s foreign minister.

Really? Our European allies seemed to think it was very easy when it came to releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Darrell Issa reminds Voice of America:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand that European countries take back their citizens fighting in Syria received a mixed reaction Monday, as nations voiced concerns about how to bring home-grown ISIS extremists to trial. …

“It is certainly not as easy as they think in America,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. “German citizens have the right to return, but we have little ability in Syria at present to check whether German citizens are actually affected.”

Maas said authorities would have to “check to what extent they were involved in fighting for ISIS, which would result in criminal proceedings having to be opened against them.” …

Security experts have warned that convicted terrorists will walk free from European prisons by the dozens over the next two years, many of them jihadis who trained or fought in Syria and Iraq but never faced serious charges due to insufficient evidence.

This was precisely why the Bush administration opened up the detention facility at Gitmo, and why Trump keeps it open. Previously, the US had treated al-Qaeda and other radical-Islamist terror groups as a law-enforcement issue. After 9/11, the Bush administration vowed to fight it as a war and handle terrorist detainees as unlawful combatants for the entire period of the war. The rationale was precisely the same problems that these EU nations cite — an inability to collect evidence in the same manner in which nations conduct investigations into violations of criminal law in areas of their own sovereignty.

That is an absurd approach when it comes to wars fought by armies against armed enemies. However, our allies insisted on having us repatriate their citizens out of Gitmo on the basis of a lack of criminal process, which the Bush administration did and the Obama administration accelerated. Issa accurately describes the results; terrorists returned to jihad and their home countries had little oversight over their activities.

Now our allies don’t want to deal with the situation by their previous declared standards, which is understandable given the results over the last decade. But it’s absurd to accuse Trump and the US of thinking it was “easy.” Had they listened to us and treated this as war rather than a crime wave, they wouldn’t be in this position now.

And this is going to become even more acute in the weeks ahead. The SDF has reduced the last ISIS claim to territory to a few square kilometers, but it’s packed with human shields. ISIS wants to negotiate an exit to flee somewhere else rather than surrender to the Kurds, but that’s not happening:

More than 300 Islamic State militants surrounded in a tiny area in eastern Syria are refusing to surrender to U.S.-backed Syrian forces and are trying to negotiate an exit, Syrian activists and a person close to the negotiations said Monday.

The development comes amid the Islamic State group’s last stand in the village of Baghouz, where militants are hiding among hundreds of civilians and preventing them from leaving. It also will likely further delay a declaration on IS’ territorial defeat that U.S.-backed Syrian forces were hoping to make last week.

A person familiar with the negotiations said the militants are asking for a corridor to the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, and demand that they be allowed to leave along with the evacuated civilians. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the talks, which he described as taking place indirectly.

The SDF is not going to let these terrorists escape just to find more human hostages for another battle. It’s either surrender or annihilation for the remaining ISIS forces at this point. If it’s the former, a number of countries will need to step up and deal with their own citizens. They might want to review the Gitmo model this time around.