U.S. military pilots are reporting that they are being blocked from dropping 75 percent of their ordinance because they could not get clearance, according a leading House Republican.
Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Beacon, “You went 12 full months while ISIS was on the march without the U.S. using that air power and now as the pilots come back to talk to us they say three-quarters of our ordnance we can’t drop, we can’t get clearance even when we have a clear target in front of us,” Royce said. “I don’t understand this strategy at all because this is what has allowed ISIS the advantage and ability to recruit.”
The Pentagon told the Beacon that the reason bombs are not being dropped is mainly because of the goal of minimizing civilian casualties. “The bottom line is that we will not stoop to the level of our enemy and put civilians more in harm’s way than absolutely necessary,” a military official said.
“The fact that aircraft go on missions and don’t strike anything is not out of the norm,” the official added. “Despite U.S. strikes being the most precise in the history of warfare, conducting strike operations in the heavily populated areas where ISIL hides certainly presents challenges. We are fighting an enemy who goes out of their way to put civilians at risk. However, our pilots understand the need for the tactical patience in this environment. This fight against ISIL is not the kind of fight from previous decades.”
Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane shares Royce’s assessment that the strategy is flawed, adding it is being driven from the top down.
“When we agreed we were going to do airpower and the military said, this is how it would work, he [Obama] said, ‘No, I do not want any civilian casualties,’” Keane explained. “And the response was, ‘But there’s always some civilian casualties. We have the best capability in the world to protect from civilians casualties.’” Obama reiterated “no casualties,” according to the retired general.
“Believe me,” Keane added, “the French are in there not using the restrictions we have imposed on our pilots.”
And the same goes for Russians. “They don’t care at all about civilians,” he said.
The Pentagon stated that the air campaign has been effective, with attacks focused on the Islamic State’s “staging areas, fighting position, and key leaders,” as well as its “oil distribution chain.”
Royce believes that victory must ultimately come on the ground and advocates arming the Kurds, whose forces he says are 180,000 strong.
“When it is perceived that ISIS is losing territory, that’s when it is harder for them to recruit on the internet and tell people they’re invincible,” Royce said.