American-led coalition of military forces fighting ISIS confirm airstrike investigation

By Katherine Coble || News Editor

The American-led coalition of military forces fighting ISIS has confirmed that they are investigating an airstrike in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The exact date of the airstrike is not known, but it occurred sometime around March 17, 2017. As many as 200 civilians may have been killed, making it potentially “the largest civilian death toll in decades from a U.S. airstrike,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

While American officers remain ambiguous about the reasons for the attack and what exactly happened, Iraqi officers say the airstrike was called on three snipers located on the roofs of homes in one neighborhood of Mosul. These Iraqi generals insist that they were unaware the homes’ basements were filled with civilians, although ISIS is known for its use of civilians as human shields and coalition soldiers had been fighting in the area in the days before the attack.

The number of civilians killed in the airstrike have caused some to wonder if America’s policy towards airstrikes has dramatically shifted in the age of Donald Trump’s presidency. American officials dispute this, but admit the aggression towards ISIS has ramped up since Trump became the leader of the free world on January 20, 2017. Iraqi soldiers have told news organizations like the New York Times that it has, in fact, become much easier to request airstrikes since Obama left office. In particular, it is now easier for American commanders to call in airstrikes than it was when Obama was president.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump repeated his commitment to defeating ISIS as quickly as possible. Sometimes he boasted he would do so within thirty days of ascending to office. He published a presidential memorandum on January 28, 2017, promising that “within 30 days, a preliminary draft of the Plan to defeat ISIS shall be submitted to the president by the secretary of defense.” Some are concerned that this sense of urgency has led to increased recklessness or an adjustment in the rules of military engagement, though US officials insist this is not the case.

The Mosul airstrike marks the second time in less than a week that the military is investigating civilian deaths reported to be caused by American-led airstrikes. The first occurred in rural Syria on March 16, more than 200 miles away from the Mosul site. Syrian activists claim that the airstrike occurred at a local mosque, while the US military insists that the airstrike on an “Al Qaeda Meeting Site” that happened to be close to the mosque in question. 42 people are confirmed killed and more injured in the Syrian airstrike.

The civilian deaths bring concern to those that worry ISIS will use them as anti-American propaganda. ISIS has a thriving propaganda force which often uses such airstrikes as a method of radicalizing locals and indoctrinating new members into their organization. By sparking outrage over the treatment of Iraqi civilians in a densely-populated urban center in Mosul, ISIS hopes to create and capitalize on anger towards those responsible for the airstrikes – America in particular.

Regardless of the new urgency in aggression towards ISIS, the organization has been significantly diminished in size and power since their coalition opposition began its campaign in 2014. The Pentagon claimed in August 2016 that the organization’s forces had been reduced to just 15,000 in Iraq and Syria. At the time, Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland said that “The enemy is retreating on all fronts.”

First-year Katherine Coble is the News Editor. Her email is kcoble@fandm.edu.

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