The debate over the increase in civilian casualties caused by the US-led coalition in the campaign against ISIS grows more contentious by the day, even as the tempo of operations has slowed following the fight for Mosul. A dispassionate and systematic internal assessment is long overdue, for the benefit of civilians caught in today’s wars and tomorrow’s — and for US strategic goals.
A study is needed because whether you believe Airwars.com, a well-regarded aggregator of civilian casualties reports, or accept US Central Command’s lower count, there is no doubt civilian casualties have increased significantly over the last six months. At the same time, there is no clear consensus on why. A variety of plausible tactical and operational reasons have surfaced in the media, some of them from the U.S. military itself:
- The shift in fighting to densely populated urban areas such as Mosul
- The delegation of decision-making authority to lower levels of military command
- Faulty intelligence used in airstrike planning
- Lack of on the ground presence for pre- and post-strike evaluations
- More aggressive tactics and a shortened timeline to defeat ISIS
- Uneven professionalism and capacity of local partner security forces on the ground
- ISIS’ use of human shields and other tactics designed to incur civilian harm caused by the coalition
Read the article in full on Defense One’s site.