A convoy of stranded Islamic State fighters has generally dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, depriving the US of the ability to strike them in one place, The Washington Post reports.
The convoy of terrorists came to be after a complex peace deal was struck between ISIS, the Lebanese government, the terrorist group Hezbollah, and the Assad regime. ISIS agreed to evacuate an area near Lebanon in return for safe passage to area it controls near the Iraqi-Syrian border. The US military expressed anger at the deal, pledging to strand the convoy in the middle of the desert and kill as many fighters as possible without endangering the lives of women and children.
"If they try to get to the edge of ISIS territory and link up with ISIS there, we'll work hard to disrupt that," Operation Inherent Resolve commander Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31. Townsend's spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon similarly told The New York Times, "If we do identify and find ISIS fighters who have weapons — and like I said, we can discriminate between civilians and ISIS fighters — we will strike when we can. If we are able to do so, we will."
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
The fighters, however, appear to have dispersed to different parts of Iraq and Syria, though some parts of the convoy remain marooned in the desert. A section of the fighters have found their way to towns in Iraq, which also was angry about the safe passage given to the terrorist group. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi recently called the peace deal an "insult to the Iraqi people," adding "honestly speaking, we are unhappy and consider it incorrect."
The Iraqi Security Forces are currently in the midst of ISIS clearing operations throughout the country after a series of battlefield victories in Mosul and Tal-Afar. The terrorist group still controls some territory and will likely be defended by some of the freed ISIS fighters.