Trump: We took the ISIS ‘Beatles’ out of Syria

Trump calls the "Beatles" – whose name he misspelled – the “worst of the worst.” The men were so named because they are alleged to be part of a UK ISIS team.

AN ISIS fighter uses his phone to  lm a military parade in Syria’s northern Raqqa province in 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN ISIS fighter uses his phone to lm a military parade in Syria’s northern Raqqa province in 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Fearing that Turkey and local Kurdish forces that are being bombed might “lose control” of eastern Syria, the US swept into a detainee facility and whisked away two ISIS suspects. President Donald Trump said that America took the two men “out of the country and into a secure location controlled by the US.”

The men, dubbed the “Beatles” because they are alleged to be part of a team of UK members of ISIS, are Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, allegedly behind various crimes against hostages committed by ISIS. Trump spoke to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the issue of UK ISIS members being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria. The SDF were close partners of the US until October 6, when Washington abandoned them and opened Syria’s skies so Turkey could bomb Kurdish areas.
Trump calls the “Beatles” – whose name he misspelled as Beetles – the “worst of the worst.” Prisoners held by UK ISIS members recounted torture and brutality. According to reports, US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley were beheaded by a member of the group called “Jihadi John,” thought to be Mohammed Emwazi.
Since being captured by the SDF, the two surviving “Beatles” became celebrities, speaking frequently to journalists from their detention facility and claiming they wanted to go back to the UK and relax. In the UK, the mother of one of the suspects brought a case demanding that the government not assist the US in interviewing the men because it might lead to the death penalty.
The UK has sought to prevent its citizen ISIS members from returning home, preferring to get the SDF to pay to keep them in Syria. There are thought to be another 30 UK ISIS members in Syria, and more than a thousand other foreign ISIS male fighters. These include hundreds of French, German and Australian citizens. Many Western countries allowed ISIS members to go to Turkey where they entered Syria, but the same countries don’t want them to return. In some cases, the UK has even stripped them of their citizenship.
The US Inspector-General reports on the anti-ISIS coalition has warned that the detainees are a threat, and that their wives and children, many held at Al-Hol camp, are not secured properly. ISIS has sought to reconstitute by networking with some of the women detainees. With the US opening the door in Syria to Turkey’s invasion, Trump said that Turkey would take care of the ISIS detainees. But the issue of the detainees is now thought to be a disaster in the making as Ankara doesn’t want them, their home countries don’t want them, and the SDF doesn’t have the resources to take them.
America has sought to rush in and grab a few of these detainees now and secret them away. Reports said they might have been moved to Iraq. With Guantanamo still open – even though former president Barack Obama had sought to close it – the detainees might disappear to some other facility. It is unclear why the US waited to grab the “Beatles” if they felt they had the right to do so. In any case, this is the first effect of the US decision to leave, forcing Washington’s hand on the detainee issue.
There are now thousands more who face an unclear fate. Some of these men are the most extreme ISIS supporters, yet the 80-member anti-ISIS coalition has provided no strategy to secure them. This is because the US-led coalition never tasked itself with prosecuting ISIS crimes or establishing a court to do so. Iraq has prosecuted ISIS members and hung some of them, but there are thought to be 40,000 Iraqi women and children, some ISIS supporters among them, in Al-Hol. It is unclear if they will go home now.
All that is clear is that the US knows how to grab and rendition ISIS members when it wants to. It waited a year to do so until it plunged eastern Syria into instability, necessitating the removal of the “Beatles” from Syria.