WASHINGTON (Jan. 22, 2016) — The
aerial assault on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is the most precise
in history, but there are still some civilian casualties, a U.S. Central
Command official said here today.
Air Force Col. Pat Ryder told
Pentagon reporters that “the preponderance of evidence indicates five separate
U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria, between July 4 and July 17, 2015, have likely
resulted in the death of two civilians and injuries to an additional four
Since Operation Inherent Resolve
began in August 2014, coalition forces have dropped almost 35,000
precision-guided munitions on ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, Ryder said. “We
take great care, from analysis of available intelligence to selection of the
appropriate weapon to meet mission requirements to minimize the risk of
collateral damage, particularly any potential harm to civilians,” he said.
In that same period, indications are
that the coalition “likely killed” 16 civilians and injured nine, Ryder said.
“Since the beginning of the campaign we’ve received 120 allegations of civilian
casualties, 87 of which were deemed not credible,” he said. “We currently have
14 allegations which remain open, nine of which are pending credibility
assessments and five pending investigation. We have closed 19 allegations.”
ISIL makes avoiding civilian
casualties more difficult by operating in civilian areas and using civilians,
essentially, as shields, Ryder noted.
Progress on the Ground
On the ground, Iraqi forces are
making slow, but steady progress along the Anbar corridor out of Ramadi, the
colonel said. “There is still some tough fighting happening in the Hit [and]
Haditha areas, but we are seeing successful operations by Sunni tribes
supported by [Iraqi security forces],” he said.
ISIL is trying to break through the
combined front, but is not succeeding, Ryder said, noting that Iraqi forces
have repelled a dozen attacks. “The coalition continues to support these
indigenous forces through our advise and assist efforts as well as our air
support,” he added.
In Ramadi, Iraqi forces continue to
clear the city of improvised explosive devices and have extricated thousands of
Iraqi citizens from harm’s way, Ryder said. This area is important to ISIL, he
said. It was an important al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold and a central node of the
supply line that runs along the Euphrates River valley between Raqqa, Syria,
and Baghdad, he said.
Clearing the valley will make it
much more difficult for ISIL to infiltrate into Baghdad, the colonel noted.
Attacking ISIL’s Economy
Ryder also briefed on the continuing
operation against ISIL’s economic infrastructure. Ongoing Tidal Wave 2
airstrikes against the illicit oil infrastructure and its financial hubs have
meant the terror group had to halve the pay of its adherents.
Thus far, the strikes have hit 34
modular refineries, 138 oil collection points and 399 tanker trucks and
millions of dollars in cash, he said. The strikes will erode ISIL’s ability to
govern and finance itself in the long term, the colonel said.
Russian airstrikes continue and
still seem to be aimed at supporting the Bashir al Assad regime, Ryder said.
“This has been the trend since the beginning of Russia’s presence in Syria,” he
said. “The vast majority of their targets are opposition groups vice ISIL.”
Russia’s involvement only prolongs
the suffering of the Syrian people, he said.
“It enables groups like ISIL to take advantage
and to expand into areas where opposition groups are being impacted,” the