Experts warn of the danger of new incubators of terrorism

A group of former counterterrorism officials urges coalition not to ignore the situation with prisoners in Iraq and Syria

18 years after 9/11 prompted the United States and its allies to launch a war on terrorism, experts warn the coalition is contributing to the repetition of history..

Thirteen former counterterrorism officials, including two former directors of the National Counterterrorism Center, a former director of counterterrorism operations for British intelligence MI6, and a former US envoy to the Islamic State coalition, issued an open letter on Tuesday evening called on Western states to stop ignoring prisoners in Syria and Iraq.

“We have witnessed the aggressive rise of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS,” they write. “We studied the conditions that led to the birth of these groups and allowed them to gain strength. And we see that some of these conditions are forming again. “.

In particular, the authors of the letter draw attention to the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, where about 70,000 people live, who were forced to flee their homes during the war with the self-proclaimed caliphate of IS..

According to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, about 11,000 of them are women and children, whose relatives may be IS militants..

Despite numerous requests from the American authorities, European countries do not want to accept many of them back..

Counterterrorism and national security experts consider this approach to be flawed.

“This position of non-interference will only create an even greater danger in the future,” the authors of the letter insist. “Deprivation of citizenship in their home countries will only strengthen their belief that they are indeed citizens of the Islamic State, and can prepare them to become a bulwark of the future revival of the group.”.

Speaking at a conference at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, Brett McGurk, the former US representative to the anti-IS coalition, noted the potential danger of the situation with prisoners and camp inmates..

Experts warn of the danger of new incubators of terrorism

“We need to have some clear priorities, and the Al-Hol camp is critical,” McGurk said, calling the camp and prison, which holds some 2,000 foreign fighters, “a land of jihad.”.

“We know what is happening in these prisons,” he added, recalling that it was these places that served as incubators for the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musba al-Zarqawi and the leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi..

“I hope the US will step up its efforts in this direction, because the situation is very serious,” McGurk said. “It is central to our national security.”.

“After 18 years of the so-called war on terrorism, we have reportedly spent between $ 5 trillion and $ 6 trillion,” another former senior FBI special agent Ali Soufan, who also signed the letter, said speaking to US lawmakers. “And now there are more terrorists in the world than there were when we started this war. What we are doing at the international, global level does not work. “.

Experts warn of the danger of new incubators of terrorism

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