Al-Hol camp presents a threat to the region: CENTCOM commander

“The most durable solution is for countries of origin to repatriate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate their citizens.”
General Michael “Erik” Kurilla on Friday visited the al-Hol Camp (Photo: CENTCOM).
General Michael “Erik” Kurilla on Friday visited the al-Hol Camp (Photo: CENTCOM).

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) –  Lt. General Michael Kurilla, the Commander of the US Central Command, on Friday visited Syria’s al-Hol camp and underlined the threat of the camp for the region.

“Most of the residents seek to escape ISIS, but ISIS sees the camp as a captive audience for its message and recruitment efforts. It is therefore urgent that we repatriate residents back to their countries of origin and rehabilitate them if needed,” he said in a statement on Friday evening.

On August 25, the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) launched the Operation Humanity and Security operation in Syria’s al-Hol camp. The US supports the operation against ISIS cells in the camp.

On Sept 8, two Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters were killed in a fight with ISIS fighters trying to escape the camp. “The SDF face danger in their effort to clear ISIS from this site and our thoughts are with their fellow SDF troops,” General Michael Kurilla said.

“We continue working with the SDF to address both security at the camp as well as the humanitarian conditions. Working together on al-Hol is an extension of our ongoing cooperation to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he said.

During the visit, he also met with Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi.

Read More: Coalition heavily involved in SDF operation in al-Hol camp: CENTCOM

“While this camp represents a real threat to the region, it also represents a humanitarian catastrophe. I spoke with several members from the camp today; these discussions reinforced the severity of the situation.”

Syria’s al-Hol camp now hosts around 56,000 residents, mostly Iraqis and Syrians. The camp also hosts thousands of foreign ISIS families.

“There is little escape from the heat and limited access to running water,” he said. “ISIS seeks to exploit these horrific conditions. With approximately 80 births in the camp each month, this place is a literal breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS.”

He warned that approximately 70 percent of the population is under the age of 12. “These young people are vulnerable to radicalization given their very poor quality of life.”

The SDF and the US-led coalition have repeatly called on countries to repatriate their citizens from al-Hol camp.

Moreover, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) have repatriated Iraqi families from the camp in coordination with Baghdad.

“The most durable solution is for countries of origin to repatriate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate their citizens,” the CENTCOM commander said.

Although the US commander praised Iraq for repatriating its nationals.

“Although substantial, clearly there’s a need to accelerate this progress. Should Iraq repatriate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate its citizens, the problem would immediately become much more manageable,” he underlined.

“From the perspective of the United States, this is a situation that requires a whole-of-government approach. I am in dialogue across the US Government to improve security and humanitarian conditions at the camp,” he concluded.