An uptick in civilian casualties during attacks on ISIS in Syria and Iraq has some wondering if the Trump administration has increased its attacks on the terror cell, according to a report.
Pentagon officials have been skittish on why more civilians are dying in the strikes, the Washington Post reported.
But military officials have maintained that the growing number could be, in part, because ISIS has fled to dense areas like Mosul, Iraq. In turn, they’ll let civilians be targeted, making it seem as if U.S. forces have a disregard for their lives.
“What you see now is the result of fighting an evil enemy in a dense urban environment where ISIS is using civilians as human shields, using homes as fighting positions, schools as weapons storage facilities, and mosques and hospitals as bases for its terrorist operations,” a Pentagon spokesman told the Daily News via email. “Our goal is, and has always been, for zero civilian casualties, but there is a legal and moral imperative to protect our own forces and accomplish the mission against an evil enemy, that is equally important as protecting civilians.”
The Pentagon didn’t immediately return the Daily News’ request for comment.
ISIS has blamed the U.S. for “continuous American-Iraqi massacres” in Mosul and other Iraqi cities where it’s fought, according to the Washington Post.
The Pentagon had trouble trying to explain the increase because of classified procedures and a complicated air strike rules, the newspaper reported.
“We’re ceding space to the adversary, who wants to create the perception of disregard for civilian life,” retired Air Force Gen. David Deptula told the Washington Post.
The air strikes debate goes back to a March 17 attack on Mosul. Witnesses claimed that at least 100 civilians were killed in a U.S.-led coalition strike.
U.S. military officials later acknowledged that the strike likely played a role in the deaths, but asserted that the Pentagon hadn’t loosened its regulations about targeting civilians.
The number of deaths in that case was a huge spike from how many civilians have been killed by attacks on ISIS since 2014.
The task force handling the strikes released a report earlier this month that at least 229 civilians were unintentionally killed between 2014 and this February — not factoring in the March attack.
“We regret the unintentional loss of civilian lives resulting from Coalition efforts to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria and express our deepest sympathies to the families and others affected by these strikes,” the report says.
But the number has reportedly been climbing in part because of the Mosul strike.
That prompted watchdog group Airwars to stop tracking Syrian casualties by Russian jets supporting the Assad regime and start watching U.S. strikes, the Washington Post reported.
President Trump has ordered the Pentagon to ramp up pressure on ISIS, especially in Mosul as well as Raqqa, Syria.
The White House has also ordered a review of regulations on strikes implemented by the Obama administration aimed at reducing civilian casualties, according to the Washington Post, which military leaders thought were a hindrance.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has also sent requests to the White House asking to give leaders more decision-making rights in areas such as Yemen.
by : Daily NEWS