Thursday, June 25, 2015

US aim for ‘zero civilian casualties’ draws criticism | TheHill

US aim for ‘zero civilian casualties’ draws criticism | TheHill: U.S. and coalition air forces are aiming for zero civilian casualties in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), frustrating some lawmakers who say the military campaign is progressing too slowly.

While officials say they can never be absolutely certain of who’s on the ground, U.S. and allied forces are refraining from airstrikes against ISIS if there’s a risk of even one civilian casualty.

“There’s a target of zero civilian casualties, so if there are civilian casualty concerns, we would continue to monitor a target or a potential target to see if there is a way to mitigate that,” said an Air Force official.
In practice, the strategy means that sudden developments on the ground can often force pilots to call off airstrikes. If a car suddenly drives up to an enemy checkpoint, for example, a strike would be delayed until it could be determined that no civilians were present.

The focus on protecting civilians is adding a wrinkle to the U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, which is already operating without the help of “spotters” on the ground who can call in strikes on known ISIS targets.

“It’s insane. Seventy-five percent of those combat missions return to base without dropping a weapon,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday. “The air campaign is totally ineffectual.”

Military officials acknowledge the 75 percent figure but say it’s comparable to past campaigns.