Defense

US Forces Are Not Screening, Interrogating Captured ISIS Fighters In Iraq

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Iraqi forces are taking the lead on interrogations of captured ISIS forces, while U.S. troops are not directly involved, according to the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).

While U.S. forces are familiar with the Iraqi government’s screening of captured ISIS fighters, U.S. Army Col. Chris Garver said it is not a role the coalition is directly involved with during a press briefing Wednesday. He noted that military advisers at the division-level within the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are aware of the process, but there is no U.S. official specifically dedicated to the issue.

Questions over what to do with captured ISIS fighters have existed since the U.S.-led coalition began securing major victories over the terrorist group in 2015. In addition to the ISF, U.S. forces have handed over interrogation responsibilities to the Kurdish Peshmerga operating in northern Iraq. This policy applied when Mohammed Jamal Amin, an alleged U.S. citizen fighting for ISIS, was captured by Peshmerga fighters in March.

“That’s really not a matter we are involved with, frankly, at all,” said former OIR spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren during a March press briefing.

One of the major reasons why U.S. forces are not participating in interrogations is simply due to manpower. U.S. forces in Iraq currently hover around 3,500, with a maximum cap of 4,087. With U.S. forces concentrating on support operations, Warren explained that local partners, like the Kurdish Peshmerga, are “fully capable” of engaging in interrogations.

According to Garver, every ISIS fighter captured by the ISF is supposed to be handled through the law of armed conflict (LOAC), a set of various international regulations governing warfare. He said that ISF personnel have been trained on LOAC by U.S. personnel.

With the ISF poised to retake the city of Fallujah and engage in the invasion of Mosul, it is likely that thousands of ISIS fighters will be captured in combat. Garver was not able to provide an estimate for ISIS fighters captured in Fallujah so far, but he did note that there are likely still hundreds in the city.

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