US: Over 2,000 Foreign ISIS Fighters Held by Kurdish Forces in Syria

Officials say less than two dozen are Americans

Pentagon officials are saying that the US is continuing to conduct biometric screening on ISIS detainees held by the US-backed SDF forces in northeastern Syria. They believe that in excess of 2,000 ISIS detainees are foreign nationals.

This is a difficult process to go through, as a lot of the detainees don’t exactly have IDs on their state of origin, and at any rate, many of the nations, the US included, are loathe to take them back. The Pentagon estimated less than two dozen Americans in the entire group.

But that could be just the start of the Americans involved in all of this. The 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters are among over 9,000 such fighters the SDF currently holds. The rest are believed to be from either Syria or Iraq.

But the SDF is also nominally holding some 60,000 other people, mostly civilians, who the US identifies as “ISIS affiliates.” These people are being held in camps for the foreseeable future, and it’s not at all clear where they come from, or if there is a serious effort to be undertaking to figure that out.

US defense officials say the “affiliates” are mostly women and children, and that US decided they were not ordinary innocent civilians, on the grounds that they either chose to stay in ISIS-held territory, or were forced to do so by ISIS.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.