French Defense Minister Ms Florence Parly is a tough lady, and just as her German counterpart Ms Ursula von der Leyen or her US colleague Mr James Mattis for that matter, quite outspoken when it comes to ISIS fighters.
It was probably for this reason that Ms Parly has been the only one on European soil so far to admit what everyone thinks but doesn’t say about the remaining ISIS fighters in Raqqa which are of European or US origin.
Ms Parly was asked earlier this week by Radio 1 France about the future faith of French nationals in Raqqa who had fought on ISIS behalf, and responded: “If the jihadis perish in this fight, I would say that’s for the best. We cannot do anything to prevent their return besides neutralize the maximum number of jihadis in this combat.”
Of course most European and US conservative politicians think this, but can’t say it.
For this reason, there is an underlying understanding that the US backed forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa have in dealing with the foreigners who joined the extremist group by the thousands. The rule is: kill them on the battlefield.
After Ms Parly’s comments, the US envoy for the Anti-IS coalition, Mr Brett McGurk, joined in during an interview with Dubai-based Al-Aan television: “Our mission is to make sure that any foreign fighter who is here, who joined ISIS from a foreign country and came into Syria, they will die here in Syria.”
No western democratically ruled country will admit to refusing to take back national citizens that have joined the Islamic State during the Syrian war, certainly if those fighters have women and children. But few countries are making any serious effort to recover these nationals, which is very understandable.
At this moment, both the US and Europe are glad that Iraq, where hundreds of Islamic State fighters are being held in detention camps, is dealing with the legal aspect of ‘handling’ the judicial proceedings. According to Iraqi law, the ISIS fighters will be put on trial and face the death penalty should they be (which is highly likely) convicted of terrorism charges, foreigners or not.
Russia made it even easier. Iraq informed the Russian foreign ministry last week that they had captured a Russian national ISIS fighter and that they were about to hang him. The Russians did not intervene at any point.
Mr Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University Professor and author of “Inside Terrorism” agrees but warns at the same time: “You can see why almost the preferred resolution is that they don’t return. What worries me is I think it’s wishful thinking that they’re all going to be killed off.”