The Prisoners Dilemma: ISIS After Bagouz

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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