Edwin Bakker discusses the possible IS prisoner breakouts on Dutch news website NOS.nl
This week the Turkish army invaded North East Syria. The Turkish invasion might well have had an unintended side effect: the escapement of thousands of Islamic State terrorists held in captivity. Experts on terrorism and politicians fear a resurrection of the terror group.
The exact number of IS fighters held in captivity is unknown since a lot makeshift prisons have been set-up during the fight against IS. Estimates vary between several thousands and well over ten thousand. American security officials say they are afraid of a repeat of the scenario that took place in Iraq between 2010 and 2013. There, huge numbers of extremists managed to break out of prison after the departure of the American forces which eventually led to the founding of IS.
The Turkish president Erdogan has promised he would prevent IS from ever playing a significant role in the region again. Edwin Bakker, Professor Terrorism and Counterterrorism at Leiden University's Institute of Security and Global Affairs doubts whether he will be able to keep that promise. 'It might look as if IS has been defeated, but in reality there is still a lot of sympathy for the terror group,' he says, referring for instance to the situation in the prison camp al-Hol, which houses over 75,000 women and children of IS terrorists. Recently, it came to light that IS is regaining influence in the prison camp after women had founded an IS court.
Bakker is very critical of the unforthcoming attitude of countries such as the Netherlands when it comes to bringing back nationals who travelled to Syria. 'It is obviously bizarre that Trump is pulling out the American forces despite all the opposition against his decision. On the other hand, the Americans have warned repeatedly: bring back your citizens who travelled to Syria, we won't do it for you.' Bakker believes the international community has been negligent when it comes to IS prisoners. 'All of a sudden, we have ran out of options. Those in favour of bringing back jihadists emphasize that this way we would be able to retain some control. Once they have escaped, it will be impossible to keep eyes on them. It is dreadful that we have let it come this far.'
You can read the full article (in Dutch) on the NOS website.