SDF Allows ISIS fighters to Leave Raqqa- BBC Report

 In Foreign

In spite of James Mattis’ official policy of annihilation for ISIS, the BBC  reports that busloads of the fiercest ISIS fighters escaped from the Syrian city of Raqqa.  According to the BBC, the arrangements were made by local officials because the Coalition of US, British, and Kurdish led forces allows locals to make the decisions.  The US did not actively take part in the negotiations. In the long run, did this deal save lives or endanger thousands more?

“But this goes to the heart of our strategy, ‘by, with and through’ local leaders on the ground. It comes down to Syrians – they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations.” Col Ryan Dillon OIR spokeman

The men driving the trucks and buses in the convoy were told they would be carrying displaced families from the fighting in Tabqa to a camp further north. They were told it would only take about 6 hours. They were lied to…it took 3 full days of hard driving. The drivers were promised money for the journey- they have not been paid.

The 47 truck, 13 bus convoy (plus ISIS vehicles) loaded up at the City hospital, where ISIS had been holed up. Instead of just a couple hundred locals with no weapons, the convoy held heavily armed ISIS fighters…and their families, ammunitions, and weapons. According to the report, even the children and women wore suicide vests. The fighters also booby-trapped the trucks in case the deal didn’t go through.

ISIS fighters in the back of the trailer- screenshot via BBC

One of the trucks broke an axle due to the weight of the munitions they had to carry.

One of the trailers in the convoy -Screenshot via BBC

BBC reported,

Another driver says the convoy was six to seven kilometres long. It included almost 50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 of the Islamic State group’s own vehicles. IS fighters, their faces covered, sat defiantly on top of some of the vehicles.

Footage secretly filmed and passed to us shows lorries towing trailers crammed with armed men. Despite an agreement to take only personal weapons, IS fighters took everything they could carry. Ten trucks were loaded with weapons and ammunition.

Though the drivers say there were many foreign fighters in the loads they took, Col Dillon maintains that only 4 foreign fighters were among them and they are currently in SDF custody. The convoy was monitored from the air as it left the city and disappeared into the desert.

The drivers maintain that they were abused the entire way, and the locals say that they are afraid these goons will return to kill them.  ISIS paid for the items they took from a business along the way. Two things which tell us that 1) ISIS is still ruthless, and 2) ISIS still has money.

Where did these fighters go? Allowing them to leave was a huge mistake. Allowing them to take weapons was an even bigger mistake. Instead of annihilation, they have been allowed to fight another day. Was Raqqa truly “freed” or did this just postpone the return of ruthless oppression?

 

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