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Press Release | Nov. 20, 2022

CENTCOM commander statement following recent Al Hol visit


Nov 20, 2022

Release Number 20221120-01


TAMPA, Fla. – The following is a statement from Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, CENTCOM commander, after visiting the al-Hol displaced persons camp in northeast Syria on November 17th:

“This visit, my third to al Hol since taking command on April 1st, reaffirmed for me the gravity of the situation at the camp. The more than 25,000 children at the camp are in danger – the recent beheading of two Egyptian girls, ages twelve and thirteen, inside the camp is a horrific reminder of that. The children in the camp are prime targets for ISIS radicalization.

It’s one thing to read about al-Hol in the news, but quite a different thing to see it in person. It’s heartbreaking to see the pain and suffering occurring daily—that is why we are so focused on working with our interagency partners and the international community to repatriate these residents.

One short term goal for the coalition is to make the camp safer for all residents and reduce the influence of ISIS on those residents; the camp administration, the SDF, and camp security are doing this through increased force protection measures.

CENTCOM remains focused on supporting these security forces as they diligently work to improve conditions at the camp. This is critical to securing a lasting defeat of ISIS. We’re committed to preventing the resurgence of the group.

The long-term goal, however, must be the successful repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the camp residents back into their country of origin. There is no military solution here; military and security forces cannot solve the humanitarian crisis and long-term security problems presented by the camps.

In speaking with camp administration, observing conditions, and speaking with residents, it is clear to me that there are thousands of women and children here who would embrace the chance to just go home, escape this squalor and misery, and live a normal life. But the longer we leave them here in these conditions, the greater the chance they will instead raise the next generation of extremists.

For some, sadly, that radicalization is already underway. That makes some cases more challenging; some residents will require more careful deradicalization and reintegration. But this can be done and in fact has been done successfully for hundreds who have returned home and now contribute to their societies. However, the longer we wait to repatriate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate, the more challenging this effort becomes

ISIS adherents in the camp continue to demonstrate their barbaric tendencies, holding women and children captive, inculcating them with their ideologies. Tens of thousands of the camp residents reject this and do so at great risk to them and their families. In fact, many residents arrived at the camp to escape ISIS, which did not come into al-Hol in large numbers until 2019.

The camp is not monolithic. There are different sections that are separated, and the camp administrators are informed about each one.

This remains a situation that’s requires a whole-of-government approach and at CENTCOM, we remain in dialogue across the U.S. government to improve security and humanitarian conditions at the camp.”