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By Saagar Enjeti
U.S. warplanes struck Islamic State fighters in March who thought they had reached a safe passage deal with U.S.-backed fighters in Syria, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Approximately 70 ISIS fighters had struck a deal with the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main force relied on by the U.S. to defeat ISIS. The deal entailed dropping weapons and defusing improvised explosive devices in exchange for safe passage outside of the city.
Once they left the city, the U.S. systematically targeted the fighters within their rules of engagement. “I think SDF let them have safe passage out of Tabqa, but once they continued on the battlefield, I don’t know if that’s something we’re required to honor,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told TheWSJ.
Davis continued that just because the Pentagon’s allies struck the deal “doesn’t change the fact that when we see ISIS fighters on the battlefield and we have a clean shot at them, we will continue to take it.”
The incident raises questions as to what exactly the U.S. will do with the thousands of ISIS fighters who remain on the battlefield. The safe passage deal was struck specifically to preserve a large dam in the city of Taqba and to protect the local civilian population from ISIS retribution attacks. The U.S. strikes against the fighters could encourage future insurgents to fight to the death, turning battles into bitter bloody slogs.
This type of battle is on full display in the city of Mosul, Iraq. ISIS held Mosul for nearly 2 years and the Iraqi Security Forces have fought for nearly seven months to reclaim it. The terrorist group appears to be on its last legs in a small corner of Mosul, but is able to utilize its brutal tactics to kill hundreds of Iraqi troops and thousands of civilians.
The U.S. likely worries, however, that the fleeing terrorists will simply take up arms at another ISIS stronghold which will eventually need to be retaken.