While a lot of ISIS fighters managed to flee from their former capital of Raqqa before it fell to US-backed Kurdish YPG forces, many did not. In addition to those captured already by Kurdish forces, hundreds remain at large, mostly surrounded in a small enclave around a sports stadium.
There’s been some talk of surrender, but it’s not clear that’s even an option at this point, with multiple foreign officials very publicly opposed to the idea of capturing and having to deal with all these fighters, and seeing killing them outright as the path of least resistance.
“If the jihadis perish in this fight, I would say that’s for the best,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly noted in a recent radio interview, while US special envoy Brett McGurk says that it is US policy that any ISIS in Raqqa “they’re going to die in Raqqa.”
Kurdish officials haven’t set out a policy on this, though some were quoted anonymously as believing that they might be stuck with any detainees they take, as their home countries may simply refuse to take them back at all.
What that means for Syrian Kurdistan isn’t clear, but officials say they’ve been given a list of names of foreign fighters by the US. It’s similarly unclear if that list is for people the US would like to have captured, or simply a list of people they particularly want the Kurds to summarily execute if found.