Although it is often forgotten amid the attention given to major political issues here at home, the fight against ISIS continues in full force in the Middle East. As the ISIS stranglehold over the region is eroded by the more aggressive campaigns authorized by President Trump, the battered terrorist group is becoming increasingly desperate.
Brett McGurk, the top US envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, posted to Twitter on Wednesday that “Coalition military forces conducted airstrikes in #Syria to prevent the transport of #ISIS terrorists to the borders of our Iraqi partners.”
According to NBC News, the Lebanese Army, in cooperation with the Syrian Army and Lebanese Hezbollah, allowed a convoy of 670 ISIS fighters and their families to travel out of the Lebanese-Syrian border area and toward Iraq. In response, US-led coalition forces launched an airstrike to halt their passage.
ISIS militants had reached a ceasefire agreement with a coalition comprised of the Lebanese government, the Lebanese militant political party (and Iranian-backed) Hezbollah, and Syria’s Russia-backed Assad regime.
According to the agreement, ISIS fighters and their families were given permission to evacuate from an enclave on the Lebanese border to another ISIS possession on the Iraqi border. The group, which included many women and children, traveled in buses.
However, the US-led coalition was not a party to that agreement. When American-led forces discovered the movement of hundreds of ISIS militants toward Iraq, they quickly dispatched an airstrike to prevent entry.
As the New York Times reports, the US airstrikes did not hit the convoy, which included civilian women and children. Instead, it struck the road and a small bridge to stop the convoy in its tracks. US forces also bombed nearby ISIS vehicles, which were trying to catch up with the convoy. Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, made the following statement:
“Earlier today, we did conduct strikes to crater the road, and we destroyed a small bridge to prevent that convoy from moving further east.”
“The convoy of buses and ambulances has not been struck, but there have been individual vehicles and individuals clearly identified as ISIS, and we did strike those. If we can strike ISIS where we’re able to do so without harming civilians, we will do that.”
According to intelligence, the convoy has not crossed the border into Iraq. The agreement was an effort by the Lebanese government to rid itself of ISIS fighters on its border. However, it would have done so at the expense of Iraq. Dillon called the agreement “hollow,” criticizing it for simply “relocating terrorists from one place to another.”
Iraq, which normally works together with Syria, was also critical of the decision. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi censured Syria for attempting to send their problems to his country. He remarked: “We fight the terrorists in Iraq. We do not send them to Syria — we kill them in Iraq.” He called on the Syrian government to investigate the relocation effort.
US airstrikes thwarted the movement of hundreds of ISIS militants toward Iraq. Is President Trump making progress against these terrorists?
The campaign against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon is complicated. There are many actors, each trying to achieve their own aims. According to CNN, US troops were recently fired at by Turkish-backed rebels in Syria.
But progress is being made in the military fight against ISIS. As CBS News reports, US-backed Iraqi troops on Thursday liberated the ISIS stronghold of Tal Afar in Iraq. The Islamic State has been losing ground since President Trump took office and appears to be on the road to further losses.