European and other countries in the coalition battling ISIS must take back and prosecute terrorists detained in Iraq and Syria who came from their countries to prevent the jihadis from reconquering territory, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
“The fight against ISIS is a long-term test of will, a test of civilization against barbarism,” Pompeo said. “We know where we stand. Let’s work together to make sure our enemy does too.”
Pompeo told foreign ministers and senior officials from roughly 30 coalition members that it is essential they hold thousands of detained foreign fighters accountable for atrocities committed while ISIS held swaths of territory in the two countries.
Many detained foreign fighters are from Europe, but some countries have been reluctant to take them back, saying they fear the terrorists will spread their murderous ideology or launch new attacks.
Pompeo said bringing them to justice was critical to preventing ISIS from resurrecting its caliphate and exporting its ideology.
“That work begins with carrying out justice against those who deserve it,” he said. “Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody and impose accountability for the atrocities they have perpetrated.”
A meeting Thursday in Washington of members of the coalition came amid concerns about the US commitment to the fight against what is left of ISIS that grew after President Trump pressed to withdraw American troops from Syria.
“Ask them if there’s a deficit of American leadership in fighting ISIS,” he said, pointing out that the US still has forces in Syria despite the recent Turkish invasion and Trump’s call to bring them home.
Those troops, he said, will allow the US to retain the ability to launch airstrikes on ISIS targets and protect oil fields that the militants had once used to bring in significant revenue.
Pompeo also urged coalition participants to step up funding for UN relief and reconstruction projects in Iraq and Syria to allow for the return of millions of civilians displaced by years of conflict.
As the effort in Iraq and Syria goes on, Pompeo said it would also be critical to keep ISIS from expanding to other areas, including the Sahel region in west Africa where he said the group was “outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address the threat.”
With Post wires
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