My mind is boggled. From The New York Times:
By Rod Nordland | August 31, 2017
BEIRUT, Lebanon — For four days now, an Islamic State convoy with more than 600 people has been stuck in the middle of the harsh Syrian desert, blocked by American airstrikes, as a deal to allow it safe passage across Syria has collapsed.
The American-led military coalition has used airstrikes to prevent the convoy from reaching its destination in the Islamic State stronghold of Deir al-Zour Province, and vowed to continue doing so, criticizing the Lebanese and Syrians for trying to relocate terrorists. The convoy includes 308 lightly armed ISIS fighters with 330 of their relatives in 17 buses. A dozen ambulances carry 26 wounded fighters.
By relocating them, Syria and Lebanon removed any Islamic State presence on the western border and concentrated it in the east, where Iraqi and American forces would have to deal with them. The Islamic State is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Now it appears that even if the convoy does reach Islamic State territory, the fighters’ own comrades may not be pleased to see them. In addition, the Syrian regime’s allies appear to be extracting more concessions to allow the convoy to keep moving.
On Thursday, the fighters and their relatives were on the move again, according to Reuters. Quoting a Syrian military source, Reuters said the convoy had retraced its route from the southeastern border near Humaimah, in a 100-mile western loop and then north in an effort to reach Deir al-Zour through the Syrian town of Sukhna.
American military officials said that coalition warplanes would make sure that did not happen.
There’s more at the original, and the money line is further down:
So far the coalition has not bombed the convoy directly because it is carrying civilians.
What kind of idiocy is this? Did we refrain from bombing German war materiel factories because civilians were working in them? Did we not bomb Japanese cities because civilians might be hurt? No, we did what was necessary to win the war, and it has turned out that was the last war we won.
Da’ish¹ are guerrilla fighters, blending into the background whenever it suits their needs, a tactic which has bedeviled the American military in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. When you do find guerrilla fighters, you kill them, period, and the civilian casualties around them be damned.
Instead, we have been bombing roads and bridges, to prevent the Da’ish convoy from moving toward its destination. If the Times story is accurate, we are leaving 308 Da’ish fighters alive, along with another 26 wounded soldiers, men whom we are leaving alive to fight against our allies.
A so-called ‘free passage’ was negotiated between Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah and the local Da’ish fighters, allowing the Islamists to leave in exchange for them quitting the fight; they were to be allowed to head toward Deir al-Zour, close to the Iraqi border. The coalition were not involved, and the agreement angered them.
We have already taken the position, through our actions, that the deal is not binding on the coalition; if it were, the coalition wouldn’t be bombing their projected route, to stop them from reaching their destination. We are bombing Da’ish positions in Deir al-Zour almost daily, with ‘collateral damage’ against civilians certainly occurring; why shouldn’t we simply destroy this convoy, and kill all of the Da’ish fighters in it, even if the families with them die as well? After all, if we are willing to bomb Da’ish positions in Deir al-Zour and other places, we are willing to accept the inevitable civilian casualties that go along with that. Why not, then, with this convoy out in the open, destroy the convoy and keep these Da’ish fighters from ever joining the next battle.
President Obama sent American ‘advisers’ back into Iraq, as the Iraqi military was losing ground to Da’ish, and President Trump has kept them there. Business Insider reported, last May:
The Pentagon is no longer going to disclose how many troops are in Iraq and Syria, a sharp departure from an Obama administration policy that kept the public abreast of increased troop deployments to the region.
Though the US military has increasingly deployed conventional ground forces in its fight against ISIS in recent months, to include US Army Rangers and US Marine artillerymen, neither were announced by the Department of Defense.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the reason is due to a policy shift from the Trump administration.
“In order to maintain tactical surprise, ensure operational security and force protection, the coalition will not routinely announce or confirm information about the capabilities, force numbers, locations, or movement of forces in or out of Iraq and Syria,” Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times.
Translation: American soldiers and Marines have been in direct combat with Da’ish forces. To allow 308 Da’ish fighters, along with 26 wounded who may recover and return to the battlefield, to remain free and alive is to risk the possibility that some of those fighters will be shooting at American forces.
I wonder: will it be Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis, winner of the Bronze Star for valor in combat, who gets to tell a grieving family that their Army Ranger son was killed in Iraq by a Da’ish fighter he had allowed to remain free and alive?²
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.
¹ – I am not particularly fond of the initials ISIS, and the reduction to just IS, for Islamic State, seems even worse. Da’ish is an acronym for the Arabic al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham. According to the BBC, the group “objects to the term and has advised against its usage,” and therefore, I shall use it.
² – My older daughter is currently deployed with the Army Corps of Engineers in the Middle East. Though she is not particularly close to the Da’ish action, I can easily understand the feelings of American families who have deployed soldiers who are in harm’s way.