In a pair of tweets on Tuesday, President Donald Trump declared that the United States military had captured thousands of ISIS militants in Syria, following clashes with the organization and the supposed elimination of their political presence in the region.
Trump said that decisions were being discussed on what to do next with the 1,800 “prisoners taken hostage in our final battles” with ISIS. He called on European countries to pick up the slack, writing that they were “not helping at all.”
….European countries are not helping at all, even though this was very much done for their benefit. They are refusing to take back prisoners from their specific countries. Not good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2019
Trump claimed in March that Syria was free from an ISIS presence, and announced his intention to draw down American troops in the region as a result.
Previous discussions have been held with Iraq about possibly relocating the thousands of ISIS fighters there, although that nation reportedly wants to charge the U.S. with high fees to do so, according to reporting from Politico.
Some were critical of Trump describing the ISIS fighters as hostages, especially since doing so is considered a war crime, users on social media were fast to point out.
Donald Trump tweets that the U.S. is taking "hostages." Taking hostages is a war crime. As the International Committee of the Red Cross has noted, "the prohibition of hostage-taking is now firmly entrenched in customary international law." https://t.co/DE94ibjWzu pic.twitter.com/vn4vFyBJgl
— Robert Loerzel (@robertloerzel) April 30, 2019
Great. Now Trump proclaims the United States Military "takes hostages." If Trump was any dumber we'd have to keep him by the window and water him every day.
— Tea Pain (@TeaPainUSA) April 30, 2019
Trump uses "hostage" to describe a lot of people who are not actually "hostages" including detainees, prisoners of war, etc. https://t.co/9Y26MMkUNF
— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) April 30, 2019
Others pointed out that, while he previously called himself a great “hostage negotiator” in the past, he can’t seem to negotiate a way to deal with the prisoners the U.S. military now has to handle.
On Friday, Trump proudly quoted someone calling him the "great hostage negotiator" in U.S. history.
Today, he tweets about how he can't negotiate to get Europe to take ISIS "hostages." pic.twitter.com/5MooZ6g5jS
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) April 30, 2019
Looking beyond those matters, Trump’s harsh words for Europe over ISIS are hardly new. In February, Trump made similar complaints about European nations not doing anything to “take back” militants from their own countries.
Trump directed his complaints toward France, Britain, and Germany at the time, threatening them with the possibility of simply releasing the prisoners if no agreement could be made.
“The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them. The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go,” Trump wrote at the time, per reporting from The Independent.
While the administration seems pleased to say ISIS is defeated in Syria, others aren’t so sure. Reporting from Foreign Policy magazine earlier this month suggested the organization is regrouping, for example.
Other concerns abound. A new video showing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was believed to be dead, surfaced this week, the first time he’s been seen in around five years. ISIS also took credit for the Sri Lanka bombings that took place over Easter weekend this month.