Al Hol camp incubating next-generation ISIS
Former US Centcom Commander Joseph L. Votel stressed the urgency to clear out Al Hol refugee camp in Northern Syria, where families of captured or killed ISIS members are kept under the watch of Syrian Democratic Forces, in an article he wrote for Washington Post.
As the US government and coalition partners failed to repatriate the residents of the camp since three and a half years, the circumstances in Al Hol sharpen and violence in the camp is on the rise dramatically, with more than 90 murders in the previous year, Votel said.
“I can almost guarantee that if we allow conditions there to go on, unresolved, in the coming years we will find ourselves being drawn back to the region, to deal with a next-generation Islamic State that got its start at al-Hol,” Votel said.
Al-Hol houses around 56,000 people, predominantly women and children, with an estimated 70 percent of the population under age 18 and a significant proportion under age 12, according to a recent publication by the United States Institute of Peace. The camp’s population is roughly divided into Iraqis (48%), Syrians (37%) and foreigners from 60 countries (15%).
Only 25 of these countries have repatriated their citizens who are at al-Hol, according to a 2021 Human Rights Watch study.
Votel pointed out that an international interagency task force should urgently be developed and under diplomatic, legal and international nongovernmental leadership of the West, every option should be considered for motivating and incentivizing countries to repatriate, rehabilitate and reintegrate their citizens from al-Hol.