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Increased American air power is inflicting heavy damage on ISIS in Mosul and will do the same in the stronghold of Raqqa, but retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen Tom McInerney says the intensity needs to increase and we cannot be distracted over controversies about civilian casualties.
McInerney was a frequent critic of what he considered a much too soft air campaign against ISIS from the Obama administration. He is pleased to see Defense Secretary James Mattis and other military leaders embrace their overwhelming advantage from above.
“We’re seeing a significant increase in the number of sorties and we are seeing increased success. Mosul will fall, I think, in the next two weeks or so,” said McInerney, while noting that full control of Mosul will take time because of the large population and the house-to-house fighting that will be needed to prevail in full.
As the air campaign begins to reap results, the international community is raising questions about the rate of civilian casualties in Mosul. Some estimates concluded a recent bombing campaign resulted in 200 civilian deaths and many outlets told stories of children searching in vain for their parents.
McInerney says there are two things to keep in mind. First, he says people should not assume the U.S. is to blame, because ISIS may well have targeted civilians to build criticism of the U.S. campaign.
“The weapons they used – they probably used 100-pound bombs – were not the kind that could have taken a building down like that. So there is a great deal of concern that ISIS deliberately triggered it to kill civilians so we would terminate out bombing there,” said McInerney.
If verified, McInerney says such tactics would prove just how effective the ramped-up air bombardment really is.
“My intuition is that’s what they did because the air power has been so effective and they can’t do anything to counter it. So they’re trying to increase the casualties. Our humanity to man increases the inhumanity to mankind that ISIS is doing. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t,” said McInerney.
Secretary Mattis defended U.S. actions vs. ISIS.
“There is no military force in the world that has proven more sensitive to civilian casualties,” said Mattis, according to Reuters. “We go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people. The same cannot be said for our adversaries.”
McInerney says Mattis is exactly right.
“We work very hard at not having casualties, but you’re not going to go to zero. You’ve got to expect some. The quicker we do it and defeat ISIS militarily, the sooner this is going to be over. The caliphate will have been defeated,” said McInerney.
However, McInerney insists the U.S. needs to limit direct U.S. involvement to the air campaign and perhaps some helicopter support. He says local ground troops must be the ones to defeat ISIS in Mosul and beyond. He also says the Muslim leaders in the region are deafening in their reluctance to challenge the ideology espoused by ISIS.
“Where are the fatwas out of Mecca and Medina that decry this evil ideology?” said McInerney.
Beyond Mosul, the focal point of defeating ISIS will soon manifest itself in a siege against the self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. McInerney says air power will be key to success there as well.
“It must go. I would have taken down a lot more buildings and important places (before launching a siege), but I’m not running it. I think we need to be very aggressive,” said McInerney.
And that means ratcheting up the intensity of the bombings ever further.
“Oh, it’s going to be intensified. It’s got to be intensified in Raqqa,” said McInerney.