Even though U.S. intelligence has identified seven buildings in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa as the headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the site has not been attacked during the 10-month air assault against the terrorist organization.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that U.S. officials are loathe to attack certain ISIS targets for fear they might accidentally kill civilians, thus sparking “a major propaganda coup.” The Times reports:
But many Iraqi commanders, and even some American officers, argue that exercising such prudence is harming the coalition’s larger effort to destroy the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh, and that it illustrates the limitations of American air power in the Obama administration’s strategy.A persistent complaint of Iraqi officials and security officers is that the United States has been too cautious in its air campaign, frequently allowing columns of Islamic State fighters essentially free movement on the battlefield.
“The international alliance is not providing enough support compared with ISIS’ capabilities on the ground in Anbar,” Maj. Muhammed al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi officer in Anbar Province, told The Times. Anbar is home to Ramadi, which fell to ISIS last week.
“The U.S. airstrikes in Anbar didn’t enable our security forces to resist and confront the ISIS attacks,” al-Dulaimi added. “We lost large territories in Anbar because of the inefficiency of the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.”
“We have not taken the fight to these guys,” the pilot of an American A-10 attack plane told the publication in an email.
We haven’t targeted their centers of gravity in Raqqa. All the roads between Syria and Iraq are still intact with trucks flowing freely.
The Times pointed out that ISIS seems to be taking advantage of the restrictions, as the terrorist group is fighting more often within the confines of civilian populations.
Civilians who now rely on the Islamic State for services often come and go from the offices, according to a middle-age real estate agent, who still lives in Raqqa and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of the extremists.‘The civilians like the coalition because it doesn’t hit civilians, but ISIS hates it because it targets their fighters,’ he said.
Finally, the publication noted that opponents of ISIS living in Raqqa said the terrorist group has no plans to leave the city because it has adapted to the continuous airstrikes, and no one is on the ground to challenge them.
“If they had acted when ISIS was small, they could have stopped them, but now it has settled and grown and people have gotten used to it,” an anonymous aid worker from Raqqa told The Times. “As long as there is no plan to get rid of them, they are staying, and it is clear that there is no plan.”