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Trump asks European allies to ‘take back’ 800 IS fighters from Syria

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at the Meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 6, 2019. (Ron Przysucha/U.S. State Department)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump has declared that the Islamic State (IS) “caliphate” is on the verge of collapse and he called on European allies to “take back” more than 800 militants captured in Syria.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany, and other European allies to take back over 800 [IS] fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump wrote late on February 16 in a tweet.

“The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them. The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go,” he wrote. “Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!”

Countries in Europe and elsewhere have reported that hundreds of their citizens have left to fight for IS and other extremist groups in the Middle East.

Some have been killed, others captured, and still others have attempted to return to their home countries, worrying officials about radicalized groups of returnees.

IS fighters in 2014 captured large areas of territory in Syria and neighboring Iraq, establishing what they called an Islamic “caliphate” and committing massive human rights violations and terror attacks.

But after years of bloody fighting, U.S.-backed forces in both countries have mainly defeated IS, pushing them into small enclaves as the remnants attempt to hold out.

Trump has said he will soon be able to declare the defeat of the extremist group’s (IS) “physical caliphate.”

He surprised U.S. lawmakers and international allies in December by announcing that he intends to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria with the demise of IS.

Critics have said that a vacuum left by the departure of U.S. troops from Syria, where they are assisting a Syrian Arab and Kurdish alliance against IS, could result in a resurgence of the terror group and others in the country or in Iraq.