Options for Dealing with Islamic State Foreign Fighters Currently Detained in Syria

Published in: CTC Sentinel, Volume 12, Issue 5, pages 11-23 (May/June 2019)

Posted on RAND.org on May 31, 2019

by Brian Michael Jenkins

The destruction of the Islamic State has left the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces holding thousands of foreign fighters who joined the Islamic State's ranks from abroad as well as members of their families. What happens to these detainees will impact the continuing jihadi campaign in the Middle East and beyond, but legal constraints, fears of terrorism, already overburdened security forces, widespread public hostility toward Muslims in general, intensified by the barbaric behavior of the Islamic State, complicate discussions of what to do next. This essay, which reflects the author's personal views, examines eight options and is intended to move the discussion beyond political bickering and wishful thinking. Preferred solutions may not be achievable. Endless delay could prove dangerous.

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