US President Donald Trump Sunday called on his European allies to take back alleged jihadists captured in Syria, as Islamic State group fighters defended the last scrap of their “caliphate”. IS declared a proto-state across parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, but has since lost all of it except a tiny patch of less than half a kilometre square near the Iraqi border. After years of fighting IS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold hundreds of foreigners accused of fighting for the group, and well as related women and children. Syria’s Kurds have repeatedly called for their countries of origin to take them back, but these nations have been reluctant. The issue has taken on greater urgency, however, amid fears of a security vacuum since Trump’s shock announcement in December that US troops would withdraw. “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump said in a tweet, using another acronym for IS. “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them. The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go.” ‘European solution’ His tweet prompted a reaction from Paris, Brussels and Berlin. In Syria, “it is the Kurds who hold them (the French jihadists) and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them detained,” French junior interior minister Laurent Nunez told the BFM news channel. If suspected jihadists return to France, “they will all be tried, and incarcerated,” he said. Coalition member France this month opened the door to bringing back its citizens. A French source told AFP an estimated 150 French nationals, including 90 children, could be brought back to France, but authorities have not confirmed any planned transfer. In Belgium, justice minister Koen Geens called for a collective “European solution” to the problem of foreign fighters, urging a solution that carries the least security risks. “We currently have mothers and children in northern Syria, but also some fighters who are known,” he told Belgian public television network VRT. In Germany, foreign ministry sources said “the federal government is examining options to enable German citizens to leave Syria, especially in humanitarian cases”. Published in Daily Times, February 18th 2019.