The U.S. is refusing to accept any negotiated withdrawal of Islamic State fighters from the terror group’s capital in Syria and will only accept complete, unconditional surrender.
In a statement Wednesday, the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against ISIS said it would not accept a negotiated withdrawal of ISIS fighters out of Raqqa, even as the coalition is trying to evacuate 4,000 civilians out of the city, The Associated Press reports.
Instead, Army spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said the coalition discussions about what will happen to the remaining 300-400 ISIS fighters in about 1.5 square miles of the city have all centered around “unconditional surrender.”
For the coalition, negotiated withdrawal “is absolutely something that we as a coalition would not be a part of or agree with.”
The coalition believes the militants use the city’s hospital as their main headquarters and the stadium to store weapons.
So far, just 15 fighters over the last several weeks have surrendered.
In preparation to evacuate civilians from the city coalition airstrikes have died down to a slow pace.
Over the past week, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces wrested control of 40 blocks from ISIS. About 85 percent of the city is now estimated clear.
Although the U.S. will inevitably defeat ISIS in Raqqa, the terror group has still managed to launch successful suicide attacks in the heart of Syria. A suicide attack Wednesday in Damascus killed at least two, and another ISIS-claimed attack struck a police station in Damascus last week, resulting in the deaths of 17.
Moreover, Middle East experts believe that once ISIS has been deprived of its physical territory, it will simply become a terror group that continues to launch attacks, despite not having a defined geography.
“It’s too early to plan ISIS’s obituary,” Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, told NBC News. “You still have a year of serious battles in Iraq and Syria to pick apart and dismantle the territorial caliphate, and even if you do this it will mutate into … a terrorist organization.”