U.S. vows ‘restraint’ in Mosul airstrikes
BAGHDAD — As Iraqi and Kurdish military forces converge on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, U.S. commanders are concerned about their ability to launch airstrikes without laying waste to the ancient city and the civilians who live there.
The Sunni Muslim insurgents who captured the city two years ago have increased the risk of civilian casualties by rounding up thousands of Iraqis at gun- point and herding them into areas under their control, according to U.S. officials.
The militants’ goal, according to the Pentagon, is to force coalition warplanes to bomb civilians trapped in the city or to hold their fire.
The U.S.-led coalition has launched over 2,900 aerial bombs, artillery and mortar shells, ground-launched rockets and dronelaunched missiles since the Mosul offensive began Oct. 17, the Pentagon said.
But as the battle moves into a city of cobblestone pathways and clusters of shops, homes and Muslim shrines, U.S. pilots will “exercise tactical restraint,” according Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Air Force commander in the Middle East.
“We’re going to take a look in the area of the target to make sure there are no civilians moving toward the area,” he said.
Last week, U.S. planes destroyed 40 empty trucks near Mosul that militants planned to use to transport civilians into the city, U.S. officials said.
“Our enemies recognize how much of an issue this is for us and how concerned we are about this,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, U.S. commander in the Middle East. “I think trying to keep the population on our side by the way we conduct our operations is very important.”
The Pentagon is investigating allegations that a U.S. airstrike killed eight members of an Iraqi family Oct. 22.