Iraq Suspends Mosul Advance Due to High Civilian Deaths

Iraq has suspended its advance on ISIS in Mosul due to the vast increase in civilian deaths from coalition bombings.

Iraqi military leaders have halted their push to recapture west Mosul from Islamic State as international outrage grew over the civilian toll from airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in a single district of the city.

The attack on the Mosul Jadida neighbourhood is thought to have been one of the deadliest bombing raids for civilians since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble on Saturday, more than a week after the bombs landed, when the US-led coalition confirmed that its aircraft had targeted Isis fighters in the area.

The U.S. has launched an official investigation.

Donald Trump previously called for a review of Obama's rules ensuring civilian deaths would be minimized. There's concern he's already lowered the threshold. [More...]

Donald Trump earlier this year ordered a review of rules of engagement set by his predecessor, which had insisted on “near certainty” that there be no civilian casualties before airstrikes could be sanctioned. While it has not yet been completed, there are mounting concerns that the very fact a review has been ordered may have already led to the threshold being lowered.

How the latest atrocity of civilian deaths came about:

Iraqi commanders said the deaths followed an Iraqi army request for US air support to clear Isis snipers atop three buildings. They said they did not realise civilians were sheltering beneath, and it may have been a deliberate Isis trap.

Trap or not, the high death toll places the Mosul carnage, if confirmed, among the worst such incidents since the US invasion in 2003. It also serves to highlight a new pattern of behaviour by US forces since Donald Trump took office in January. Since then, the monthly total of recorded civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria has more than doubled, according to independent monitors. (my emphasis)

Other civilian deaths in Iraq since Trump got a desk in the Oval Office:

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 49 people were killed on 16 March by a US strike on a complex that included the Omar ibn al-Khattab mosque.

Last Tuesday at least 30 Syrian civilians died in another American airstrike, on Mansoura, in Raqqa province. The American planes hit a school. The raid was one of 19 coalition missions that day, ordered in preparation for the expected assault on the Isis headquarters in Raqqa city itself. (my emphasis.)

Meanwhile, Centcom continues to conduct airstrikes as usual.

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    unfortunately, there are really only three (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 09:05:44 AM EST
    viable solutions, that would enable the Iraqi gov't to re-take the rest of the city, all of which will be difficult to accomplish. if at all possible, they could try and evacuate all the non-combatant civilians in the city, before continuing the offensive, substantively reducing the probability of unintended civilian casualties. this would be the best possible outcome, but it can't happen, because the ISIS forces aren't going to allow that. they don't care about the civilians, dead or alive, but they know as long as they're there, they provide a living shield against the allied forces, who do care about the civilians. the weakness of being a civilized people, when dealing with psychopaths.

    the second option would be urban combat, going building by building, floor by floor, room by room, to rid the city of the rest of the ISIS fighters. while it would certainly reduce the incidence of civilian casualties, the rate of military casualties would skyrocket. ask any veteran of Stalingrad or the Philippines, or both Afghanistan and Iraq, to tell you of the fun to be had fighting against an entrenched enemy, in an urban environment. it will be a horror show.

    or, they could do nothing. surround the area, cutting off all ISIS lines of supply, and wait until they either capitulate, or die. however, civilian dead would fairly quickly start piling up in the streets, as starvation/dehydration/disease began to take their toll, along with whatever vengeance is wreaked upon them by ISIS.

    the best option, and the one least likely to happen, is the first one. so, the leaders in Iraq, if they really want to re-take all of Mosul, are going to have to decide what level of civilian casualties they can live with, to do so. there aren't going to be any happy endings there.

    Some quotes from various linked articles (none / 0) (#2)
    by Green26 on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 10:55:14 AM EST
    "...the US-led coalition confirmed that its aircraft had targeted Isis fighters in the area."

    "British planes were among those operating in western Mosul at the time. Asked if they could have been involved in the airstrikes, a spokesman did not rule out the possibility of British involvement...."

    "A UK report on the 17 March fighting, which was issued just a couple of days later, described "very challenging conditions with heavy cloud". Tornado jets were sent to "support Iraqi troops advancing inside western Mosul" in intense urban fighting, where crews had to "engage targets perilously close to the Iraqi troops whom they were assisting". They used Paveway guided missiles to hit five targets. The coalition said in a separate statement it had carried out four airstrikes aimed at "three Isis tactical units". They destroyed more than 50 vehicles and 25 "fighting positions". Article.

    "In response to an earlier query about the reported mass-casualty airstrike on Raqqa this week, the US military command in Iraq denied any "recent changes in operational procedures for approving airstrikes under the past or current administration". But it said that in December, the war's commander, Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, "delegated approval authority for certain strikes to battlefield commanders" in order to accelerate aid to Iraqi forces facing a grueling battle in Mosul."

    Here's (none / 0) (#3)
    by FlJoe on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 01:20:56 PM EST
    the money shot
    "delegated approval authority for certain strikes to battlefield commanders"
    which leads to this
    Iraqi commanders said the deaths followed an Iraqi army request for US air support to clear Isis snipers atop three buildings.
    No military genius here, but using airstrikes to clear snipers is a terrible tactic, especially in an urban setting where collateral damage and even carnage is highly possible.  

    Note the new delegation procedures (none / 0) (#4)
    by Green26 on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 01:47:16 PM EST
    were put in place in December.

    Wonder if ISIS snipers are intentionally using rooftops of buildings occupied by non-soldiers? Human shields?


    Most likely (none / 0) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 02:00:43 PM EST
    And how would you clear them? (none / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 02:02:32 PM EST
    Easy (none / 0) (#8)
    by Yman on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 08:14:34 PM EST
    Send in the Lazy-Boy brigade.

    What caused building to collapse? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Green26 on Sun Mar 26, 2017 at 02:00:17 PM EST
    "The inquiry, military officials said, found that a building had collapsed a few days after strikes by American forces. United States officials are seeking to determine whether the airstrikes brought down the building, leaving many Iraqis dead, or the Islamic State used the strikes as an opportunity to detonate an explosive in the building."