The Islamic State has largely taken over control of a huge camp in northeast Syria, and there’s no plan for what to do with the 70,000 people there (including more than 50,000 children). The United States and Europe must immediately address this urgent national security and humanitarian crisis, before a new caliphate is established while we watch.
After the fall of Raqqa and the coalition defeat of the Islamic State’s strongholds, President Trump announced that “100 percent” of the caliphate had been destroyed. But the tens of thousands of Islamic State fighters and family members left over were herded into massive fenced internally displaced persons (IDP) camps with little aid, security or supervision. Separate from the IDP camps, which house mostly women and children, more than 2,000 Islamic State fighters sit in a network of makeshift prisons. The entire system is managed by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are under-resourced, understaffed and allied with a United States that is eyeing the exits.
In the largest IDP camp, called al-Hol, the Islamic State now exerts more influence and control than the few dozen SDF guards stationed there, according to U.S. officials, lawmakers and experts. Islamic State women have created a morality police corps inside the camp, enforcing sharia law and even conducting brutal executions, officials said. The Islamic State is recruiting from the camp, smuggling fighters in and out and using it to plan attacks in other parts of Syria, officials told me. If it’s not already effectively Caliphate 2.0, it soon will be.