The Prisoners Dilemma: ISIS After Bagouz

By Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret.)

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for Strategy and Plans at US Central Command, Deputy Director of Operations for Coalition Forces in Iraq and significant command assignments worldwide. He currently leads a private consulting business for US clients in the Middle East and provides regional security commentary on Arabic, Turkish and English-speaking media channels worldwide.

On 23 May, John Walker Lindh was released after spending 17 years in a U.S. prison. The notorious “American Taliban”, convicted of providing support to a terrorist organization, will be kept under observation for years. That close supervision, however, cannot guarantee that he would be incapable (some would say “or unwilling”) to commit terrorism in the United States, particularly following a future U.S. attack on a Taliban target. His case will be watched closely, as it is the first post-9/11 example of a convicted American terrorist being released back into society.

Overseas, there are numerous similar cases, mostly unresolved. The thousands of prisoners picked up on the ISIS battlefield are the most recent and most pressing instance of an unresolved dilemma: what to do with hardened terrorists, including women and children, who are in custody?

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