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"Take the foreign fighters and their families out of Syria as soon as possible"

Speaking to the VRT, the American ambassador to Belgium, Ronald Gidwitz, has a clear message to Belgium: "Right now, we would like to see all of our partners, the Belgians included, take the foreign fighters and their families out of Syria as soon as possible." He also dismisses EU criticism on the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria: Europe was not interested in establishing an international peace force. 

In the aftermath of the American withdrawal, a number of foreign fighters and/or their families managed to escape from prison camps in the North of Syria. Europe and Belgium should not lose any more time and take them back. This has to happen fast. At present, almost all IS suspects are still being held in 18 prison camps, but it is not clear whether this situation is tenable. Mr Gidwitz is putting up the pressure now. 

"We know what the situation is today, we can't guarantee what the situation will be tomorrow", Mr Gidwitz told VRT journalist Jan Balliauw. The fighters may escape, or they may be executed without due process, Mr Gidwitz said: "It's a possibility. And neither of these options is one that the Belgian government would like to see." 

Watch the video below to listen to the second quote: what would be the danger if this evacuation doesn't happen? 

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The ambassador also retorted to criticism that the U.S. created chaos by pulling out of Northern Syria all of a sudden. He said that the U.S. have been negotiating with the EU to set up an international force at the Syrian-Turkish border since the beginning of the year, but that they found no support:  "We've been asking support from our partners, but until today, nobody has come forward to help". Apparently, this was no priority for Europe, after which the U.S. made the decision themselves, Gidwitz concludes. 

Watch the video below to listen to the third quote: "We asked for help but nobody has come forward"

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Belgium and foreign fighters

No exact figures

The federal government is not eager to take IS widows and their children back to Belgium, but pressure is mounting. Yesterday, a judge ordered the Belgian state to do so in a particular case. It is estimated that there are some 70 IS widows or children still staying in Syria. The number of foreign fighters linked to Belgium is though to be around 55.