American pilots fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are venting their frustration over the bureaucracy when engaging the enemy.
“There were times I had groups of ISIS fighters in my sights, but couldn’t get clearance to engage,” a Navy F-18 pilot tells Fox News in a report published Thursday. “They probably killed innocent people and spread evil because of my inability to kill them. It was frustrating.”
The comment reflects a similar statement made by a pilot of an American A-10 attack plane after it was revealed that the ISIS headquarters had been located in Raqqa, Syria. It was not destroyed, however, because of a heavy civilian presence. “We have not taken the fight to these guys,” the pilot told the The New York Times 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.
In an interview on Fox News Channel’s America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest reaffirmed the Obama administration’s rules of engagement. “There are military rules of engagement that our military leaders established for those airstrikes,” Earnest said. “We are very cautious about making sure there are no civilian casualties.”
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A spokesman for the U.S. Air Force Central Command echoed Earnest’s remarks. “As our leaders have said, this is a long-term fight, and we will not alienate civilians, the Iraqi government or our coalition partners by striking targets indiscriminately,” he said.
But retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula disagreed. “You’re talking about hours in some cases, which by that time the particular tactical target left the area and or the aircraft has run out of fuel. These are excessive procedures that are handing our adversary an advantage,” Deptula said. The retired lieutenant general was the director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Afghanistan in 2001.
The ultimate guidance rests in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We have been applying air power like a rain shower or a drizzle — for it to be effective, it needs to be applied like a thunderstorm.
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