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US Presses Others to Take IS Fighters  11/15 06:43

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- European and other members of the international coalition 
fighting the Islamic State group must take back and prosecute their nationals 
detained in Iraq and Syria to help keep IS from regaining territory, Secretary 
of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

   Pompeo told foreign ministers and senior officials from some 30 coalition 
members that it's imperative that they hold thousands of detained foreign 
fighters accountable for atrocities committed while the Islamic State held 
swaths of territory in the two countries. Many of the detained foreign fighters 
are from Europe, but countries have been reluctant to take them back and 
officials acknowledged there are still differences of opinion among coalition 
partners about how best to deal with them.

   The meeting came amid concerns about the U.S. commitment to the fight 
against IS remnants. Those concerns have increased as President Donald Trump 
has pressed to withdraw American troops from Syria. It was also the first 
meeting at such a senior level since IS was driven from the last of its major 
strongholds in March and the first since the group's leader, Abu Bakr 
al-Baghdadi, killed himself during a U.S. raid last month.

   Pompeo said bringing the foreign fighters to justice in their home countries 
is critical to preventing IS 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."

   NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said coalition members need "more 
coordinated efforts" to resolve the issue of foreign fighters and must also 
train more local forces to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State. "If you 
can enable local forces to fight terrorism themselves, to stabilize the 
country, ... that's in the long run the best way to also fight terrorism," he 
said in an Associated Press interview after the meeting.

   Nathan Sales, the director of the State Department's counterterrorism 
bureau, said the U.S. rejected suggestions such as asking countries in the 
region to accept them or establishing an international tribunal to try them.

   "Each country has a responsibility to handle this situation on their own," 
he said. "Our view is that it's not a viable option to ask other countries in 
the region to import another country's foreign fighter and pursue prosecution 
and incarceration there."

   Pompeo also dismissed concerns about America's commitment and said the U.S. 
would continue to lead the coalition. He noted that U.S. forces had killed 
Baghdadi and his deputy.

   "Ask them if there's a deficit of American leadership in fighting ISIS," he 
said, referring to the militant group by one of its other names and pointing 
out that the U.S. still has forces in Syria despite the recent Turkish invasion.

   Those troops, he said, will allow the U.S. to retain the ability to launch 
airstrikes on IS 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 U.N. 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 will also be 
critical to keep IS from expanding its reach to other areas, notably the Sahel 
region in west Africa where he said the group ``is outpacing the ability of 
regional governments and international partners to address the threat."

   "The fight against ISIS is a long-term test of will, a test of civilization 
against barbarism," he said. "We know where we stand. Let's work together to 
make sure our enemy does too." 


(KR)

 
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