SOUTHWEST ASIA – Today is the seventh day ISIS fighters and their families have spent with a bus convoy now stalled in the Syrian Desert east of As Sukhnah.
The convoy, initially consisting of 17 buses and other support vehicles, was halted in its move toward Iraq on Aug. 29 by Coalition strikes that prevented its movement to the east.
The Coalition and our Iraqi partners were not a party to the agreement between the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and ISIS to allow these experienced fighters to transit territory under Syrian regime control to the Iraqi border. The Coalition has been clear, that in support of our Iraqi partners, we will not allow the movement of ISIS fighters near the border or onto sovereign Iraqi soil.
The Coalition has never struck the convoy, and has allowed food and water deliveries to reach the stranded women and children. The Coalition will continue to take action against ISIS whenever and wherever we are able without harming non-combatants.
Coalition leaders have communicated a course of action to the Russians, providing the Syrian regime an opportunity to remove the women and children from this situation. “The Syrian regime is letting women and children suffer in the desert. This situation is completely on them,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
Over the past week, 6 of the 17 buses have returned westward toward Palmyra, back in Syrian regime territory, unimpeded by any Coalition action. The Coalition continues to monitor the remaining 11 buses and communicate with Russian officials who advise the Syrian regime.