Trump, who is meeting with world leaders in London this week at a NATO summit, said that the U.S. has “a tremendous amount of captured ISIS fighters over in Syria, and they’re all under lock and key,” falsely claiming they are “mostly from Europe.”
In fact, a report released earlier this year from the inspectors general of the State Department, Defense Department and U.S. Agency for International Development stated that 8,000 of the approximately 10,000 prisoners in northeast Syria are either Syrian or Iraqi nationals. Only about 2,000 are from other countries, roughly 800 of whom are believed to have come from Europe.
Still, Trump suggested that France take in the militants, asking Macron, “Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you. You can take every one you want.”
Macron replied with a real-time fact check.
“Let’s be serious,” he said, pointing out that Syria and Iraq bear the lion’s share of the burden.
“It is true that you have foreign fighters coming from Europe, but this is a tiny minority of the overall problem we have in the region,” he added.
Macron went on to stress that terrorism remains a threat, despite Trump’s repeated claims of having defeated ISIS in Syria. Trump used that assertion in justifying his decision to yank troops out of northern Syria in October, making way for a Turkish invasion. The move was widely condemned, receiving particular scrutiny from Macron.
“It’s not done,” Macron said Tuesday of the battle against terror. “I’m sorry to say that. Yes, you still have fighters in this region, in Syria and now in Iraq, and more and more.”
Hitting back at Macron’s response, Trump called it “one of the greatest non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
The dustup came just after Trump slammed Macron’s “very, very nasty” remarks on NATO, which the French president said has suffered a “brain death” due to a void of American leadership.
“I think that’s insulting to a lot of different forces,” Trump said. “You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.”