At Russia’s request, US forces agreed to halt aerial surveillance and hand over to the Syrian military a convoy of Islamic State fighters which has been stranded in the Syria Desert for 10 days, since Hizballah allowed the jihadists to leave the Lebanese-Syrian battle zone.
US aerial surveillance in this case meant that US warplanes circled over the convoy and struck any jihadists trying to escape as well as those approaching the 17 stranded buses to rescue their comrades.
Brig. Gen. Jon Braga, director of operations for the U.S.-led coalition, explained in a statement that it had acceded to the Russian request in the interests of joint US-Russian efforts at de-escalation. The Trump-Putin summit in Hamburg on July 7 agreed to set up de-escalation zones in southeastern Syria. The fate of the convoy is now the responsibility of the Syrian government.
DEBKAfile: This was the first time that the US and the coalition it leads had rescinded a military mission to the Syrian regime’s army, at a Russian request. By this action, the Americans opened a pathway to the handover of the regions under US control in eastern Syria to Assad’s forces. It was therefore the harbinger not only of America’s exit from eastern Syria, as DEBKAfile noted in its top story Friday, Sept. 8, but also signaled the reduction of its military effort against ISIS in that part of the country.
Now that the threat of US air strikes has been lifted our sources expect the ISIS buses to continue making their way east and heading for one of their last strongholds at Abu Kamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border.