BAGHDAD, IRAQ — There are “thousands” of detainees in Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) detention camps that need to be dealt with, according to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who visited Baghdad, Iraq, this week.
“We still have detention camps where we’ve got to do the hard work,” Pompeo told reporters from Breitbart News and other outlets traveling with him to London, after a surprise trip to Baghdad.
Pompeo said he spoke with Iraqi leaders about the topic during his roughly four-hour visit on Wednesday in Baghdad.
“We talked about how it is we’re going to ensure that those who were terrorists remain in control and not let loose, and those who are simply innocent family members, children, are returned,” he said.
He said other nations need to take back fighters who flocked to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS and make sure they continue to be detained.
“Fighters from Europe, fighters from Africa, fighters from Russia. Those countries need to take their folks home and ensure that they continue to be detained so that … those individuals never return to the battlefield,” he said.
He said there were “thousands” of people to deal with, and up to 70,000 in one camp.
“It’s a big issue. The numbers are in the thousands of people that we’ve got to deal with, some 70,000 in one of the camps. So this is a not insignificant challenge. Not all of those are terrorists,” he said.
“Many of them are families, women, and children. But to separate them, to do the work, is going to take a big coalition effort,” he said.
Earlier this year, a group of Republican senators asked President Trump to transfer more than 700 ISIS terrorists in Syria to Guantanamo Bay.
“It is imperative that these Islamic State fighters not be released,” wrote Sens. Tom Cotton (AR), Marco Rubio (FL), John Cornyn (TX), and Ted Cruz (TX) in a letter to Trump on January 22, 2019.
“We urge you to consider transferring the worst of these Islamic State fighters to the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, where they will face justice,” they wrote.
A U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces on the ground captured ISIS’s last remaining major stronghold in Iraq in December 2017, but Pompeo said that dispersed “pockets” of ISIS still remain.
“There are remnants of ISIS that are there that are still connected to [ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi] and the centralized forces, but they’re much more dispersed than they were,” he said. “The destruction of the caliphate occurred not only in Syria but in Iraq as well.”