“I called them and said, ‘You got to take back your fighters’. They said, ‘Nope, we don’t want them’.” He continued: “I called them again. I said, ‘You have to take them back or I’m going to let them go right on your damn border’. But they wouldn’t do it. They didn’t want them back. We have thousands of them. We had some really bad ones.” The US leader stressed that America “doesn’t want” to look after Europe’s jihadists adding: “We’re not bringing them to Guantanamo. We’re not bringing them to our prisons. In many cases, they’re [European] citizens.” Mr Trump made a similar threat about a month ago when he complained about the reluctance of EU countries to take back their captured nationals.
“We’re asking the countries from which they came, from Europe, we’re asking them to take back these prisoners of war. So far they’ve refused,” he said, once again pointing the finger at Paris and Berlin.
France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel have repeatedly snubbed Washington’s call for EU allies to repatriate their fighters from Syria.
French government policy has been to categorically refuse to take back captured fighters and their wives; while Germany has said it could only take back militants if the suspects had consular access.
However, Turkey’s assault on the Kurdish-controlled region of northeastern Syria could trigger one of the biggest shifts in years in a civil war that has drawn in global and regional powers.
The military operation began last Wednesday, days after Mr Trump pulled US troops out of the way, prompting denunciations from foreign leaders who have accused him of abandoning the Kurds, loyal allies of Washington.
The Turkish onslaught has also raised the prospect that Isis militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces may escape – scores are said to have done so already – and permit the terror group’s revival.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed over the weekend that Kurdish troops guarding ISIS suspects would likely be redeployed to the frontline.
A spokesman for the SDF said on Saturday: “The protection of Isis prisons will not remain our priority.
“The defence of our soil will be prioritised if [the] Turkish military continues its attacks.”
Turkey aims to neutralise the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of the SDF, which has been a key US ally in dismantling the jihadist “caliphate” set up by ISIS in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
The Kurds played a leading role in capturing territory from Isis, and now hold the largest swathe of Syria outside of the hands of President Bashar al-Assad.