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.

    There is no good way to clear bad guy snipers (none / 0) (#11)
    by Green26 on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 03:03:59 PM EST
    in an active fighting zone, I am told. Counter sniper method, straffing (plane or chopper), or with planes. Don't know what the urgency or exact situation was in this case.

    Planes are fast and effective, but obviously they do a lot of damage and don't protect civilians in a building. An F-15E at 600 mph is going to get there fast and not be shot down.

    Choppers have to already be in the general area, i.e. somewhere around Mosul or northern Iraq. The Iraqis have them. Assume the US has some for moving their people and rescue, but assume they aren't used in combat now. Big chopper and small choppers.

    Bombs/missiles from planes are very accurate.

    Straffing can be done with planes or choppers. 30 ml Vulcan cannons are guns. "Bullets" go everywhere. They explode on contact. Still, not accurate and somewhat indiscriminate. The bad guys are usually in good positions and have good cover and protection, i.e. fortified, so not necessarily easy to find or get them. Still can hit civilians. Assume the US is better trained for this than the Iraqis. More risk to choppers than to planes.

    Counter sniping takes days to weeks to prepare for. Not sure the US is doing this type of stuff in Iraq yet, and don't know what types of people they have there. Assume there wasn't time to set up counter sniping by even the Iraqis, but don't know. Highly risky to the counter snipers when in an active shooting area. And, again, don't know what the US has for contractors, Delta, SF, Special Warfare or Rangers in that area, or what they are allowed to do.


    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."


    So many armchair generals (none / 0) (#9)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 08:38:51 AM EST

    not really. i don't see anyone advocating (none / 0) (#10)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 09:26:06 AM EST
    any particular strategy for getting rid of these parasites. if you see something egregiously idiotic in these comments, please, do point it out.

    The US was asked to hit, and did hit, (none / 0) (#12)
    by Green26 on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 06:14:15 PM EST
    an ISIS truck bomb, known as a VBIEB I believe. The truck was near one or more houses where the civilians were. This caused the buildings or buildings to collapse. Some Iraqi military people are saying there were way less casualties than has been reported.

    Very very unfortunate, but what about ISIS' location of the VBIEB?

    What about it? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Yman on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 06:49:21 PM EST
    We hold ourselves to a higher standard and we can't control the tactics ISIS uses.  Hence, the focus is on whether we acted appropriately.

    Based on what I know, I am fine (none / 0) (#15)
    by Green26 on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 10:53:12 PM EST
    with hitting the truck bomb, if the Iraqis were calling for it.

    If we hit it it was by accident (none / 0) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 08:06:56 PM EST
    As the Pentagon is denying a change in ROE. When we know car bombs are in the strike zone we begin analysis on how this would affect civilians and create collateral damage. If civilians are known to be at risk we don't take the shot. At least not how Obama left the Pentagon and the Pentagon claims to have made no ROE changes.

    Oh really, what is your post based on? (1.00 / 5) (#16)
    by Green26 on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 11:03:33 PM EST
    Your desk clerk contact? Can't imagine that when our Iraqi fighter allies are calling for help, especially in a tough battle like Mosul, to a US commander in the field, that an analysis like you posted is what is done. If that was required to be done, a truck bomber would just cruise into the Iraqi allies and kill them.

    Do you care about our allies, and the Iraqi soldiers? Do you know or understand anything about the heat of battle?

    Did you even bother to go to the movie American Sniper? That's what my son did in the Anbar province in the same time period (before and during the Surge), including doing a joint mission with Chris Kyle.


    Really? Your son was a sniper in Iraq now? (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Mar 28, 2017 at 12:03:18 AM EST
    He seems to have experienced a significant change of MOS from your previous posts about his service.

    Green is always (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by MKS on Tue Mar 28, 2017 at 12:27:06 AM EST
    the bigliest at everything.

    Indeed (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Yman on Tue Mar 28, 2017 at 08:53:35 AM EST
    ... and the stories are just as credible as those purveyed by the originator of that word.

    Yes. I have posted several times (none / 0) (#27)
    by Green26 on Tue Mar 28, 2017 at 12:19:00 PM EST
    that my son was a former Ranger and head of a small sniper unit. Fought in the Anbar province before and during the Surge, as sniper and door to door guy. Involved indirectly in the Sunni Awakening. Also, that he was hurt in his first deployment. A 4-inch deep shrapnel wound in his back/shoulder, among other injuries. Surgery outside of Iraq. Could have come home, but insisted on coming back to join his guys, finish his rehab in Iraq, and then back in the fight. Was at base on edge of Sadr City in the other deployment. A tough and dedicated kid. He's a good lawyer now. Very proud of him.

    Iraqi military seems to be supporting US (none / 0) (#19)
    by Green26 on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 11:12:21 PM EST
    on the strike now.



    It is based on my knowing (none / 0) (#20)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 11:19:21 PM EST
    Those who have served in SOCOM under Obama and the ROE framework they have served in.

    Our household did see American Sniper (none / 0) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Mar 28, 2017 at 09:38:28 AM EST
    But I think we are done with war porn, at least my husband is completely done with it because you are feeding people highly emotional content with soooo many facts missing. Many career military are done with war movies. I have heard this from many.

    A for instance though, in that movie the Iraqi sniper being hunted in real life was not in Anbar. Anbar is where the Sunni insurgency is. It is also where my husband served. The "bad guy sniper" in the movie was in real life Shiite, and part of the Badr organization.

    Watching those entertainment spun inaccuracies causes my husband's brain to fry and his emotions to simmer. I don't think HE has watched all of the movie American Sniper though. When it becomes terribly factually incorrect he leaves the room.

    It isn't an accurate depiction of what they all went through. It is war porn.


    It is my understanding (none / 0) (#17)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 11:06:26 PM EST
    Iraqi forces called in the air strike.

    And this blog is definitely clogged. (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 11:09:07 PM EST
    Please, Oculus, (none / 0) (#28)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Mar 29, 2017 at 05:59:20 PM EST
    Feign some respect for the General Staff.

    We have erred when called in too (none / 0) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 11:27:08 PM EST
    Verses when we have run down OUR checklist and only operating under our own perceptions of needs and firepower. The tape that Assange "edited" of the Apaches in Iraq was one of those instances where a sovereign Iraq called our air firepower in to assist them. It wasn't an operation that we ran.

    These mistakes can occur when there has been a recent change of command and change out of troops too when we are assisting. There is a learning curve for everyone in every endeavor :(


    Iraqi general whose me called in strike support US (none / 0) (#22)
    by Green26 on Mon Mar 27, 2017 at 11:54:02 PM EST
    "Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, an Iraqi special forces commander, said his men had called in the American airstrikes that caused the civilian deaths, adding of the victims, "We feel sad for them."

    But he called the episode an unfortunate outcome in a nasty war. He said that Iraqi forces had lost thousands of men fighting the Islamic State, and that to lose so many civilians in a single attack "in return for liberating the entire city of Mosul -- I think it is a normal thing."

    "This is a war, and mistakes can happen, and there can be losses," he said. "But we are fighting the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, with huge, unprecedented support from the international coalition."

    NY Times article.