In Mosul, Yet Another Botched Operation

Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters via ZUMA


A US airstrike in Mosul last week appears to have killed upwards of 200 civilians. The New York Times reports:

American military officials insisted on Friday that the rules of engagement had not changed. They acknowledged, however, that American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq had been heavier in an effort to press the Islamic State on multiple fronts.

….Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, said that the military was seeking to determine whether the explosion in Mosul might have been prompted by an American or coalition airstrike, or was a bomb or booby trap placed by the Islamic State….Iraqi officers, though, say they know exactly what happened: Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi special forces, said that the civilian deaths were a result of a coalition airstrike that his men had called in, to take out snipers on the roofs of three houses in a neighborhood called Mosul Jidideh. General Saadi said the special forces were unaware that the houses’ basements were filled with civilians.

….Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration’s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes. Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration.

This may simply be an appalling incident not related to any change in policy. Even with the best preparation, sometimes horrible things happen when you’re at war. Still, in the past two months we’ve had a botched raid in Yemen; two attacks in Syria with heavy civilian casualties; and now an airstrike in Mosul that left hundreds of civilians dead. It’s fair to wonder if a guy whose idea of military strategy is to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” has also decided that he doesn’t much care about civilian casualties while he’s doing it.