Although a group closely monitoring the Syrian civil war claimed last Friday that moderate and Islamist Syrian rebels near Damascus agreed upon a ceasefire with Islamic State militants, a Syrian National Coalition official said Saturday that no such truce has been reached between ISIS, also known as ISIL, and U.S.-vetted rebel forces.
With the arming and training of moderate Syrian rebel forces paramount in President Barack Obama's outlined strategy to defeat ISIS, the British group called The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebel forces have reached a non-aggression pact with ISIS forces in the ward of Hajar al-Aswad, just south of the nation's capital city of Damascus.
Per the agreement, which was first reported by Agence France Presse, "the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime."
Nussayri is a derogatory term to describe the Islamic offset of the Shiite belief that is held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
However, an official from the Syrian National Coalition told The Hill on Saturday that "Not a single" U.S.-vetted rebel group entered into any kind of truce with ISIS. However, he could not speak on behalf of those rebel groups that are not vetted with the U.S.
With many lawmakers and defense department officials already skeptical of the president's idea to arm and train Syrian rebel forces, news of such ceasefire could reduce their confidence in giving the president the authority to send up to $4 billion dollars worth of aid and weaponry to the U.S.-vetted factions with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA is a conglomeration of non-extremist fighters currently at war with the Assad regime and handling clashes with ISIS.
"[Free Syrian Army] commanders declared that they will continue that fight until ISIS is completely eradicated in Damascus suburbs," coalition spokesman Monzer Abkik said. "No truce or cease fire with ISIS."
The Syrian National Coalition official did admit that there was a 24-hour ceasefire in effect Friday in the Hajar al-Aswad region between ISIS and the Free Syrian Army group called the "Sons of Golan". But, the ceasefire was only for the sole purpose of collecting the dead bodies. The official said that the ceasefire did not even make it a full 24 hours before the fighting continued.
Some skepticism remains among lawmakers and defense personnel whether Syrian rebel forces will actually devote the use of American weapons solely toward their battles with ISIS. Will vetted rebels, who are in the midst of a civil war, be tempted to use U.S. weapons to fight against the Assad regime? Obama has made it clear he does not want to get U.S. involved in the nation's civil war.
Although vetted rebels may not be holding truces with ISIS, there still remains doubt in Congress whether or not these rebels can be trusted to keep the weapons out of the wrong hands.
What makes the decision to arm the Free Syrian Army complicated is in the past they have partnered with ISIS to fight against the Syrian Army. Breitbart, a conservative news source, reported in July that some factions within the FSA have offered their services to ISIS and many have handed over their weapons to the group.
While FSA factions in and around Damascus appear devoted to "eradicating" ISIS, Lebanon's Daily Star reported last Monday that Free Syrian commanders near the Syrian-Lebanese border admit that they partner with ISIS forces in military operations against Assad's army.
"We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army's gatherings in ... Qalamoun," said Bassel Idriss, the commander of an FSA-aligned rebel brigade.
"We have reached a point where we have to collaborate with anyone against unfairness and injustice," confirmed Abu Khaled, another FSA commander.