Report: Obama’s micromanagement ‘handcuffs’ fight against ISIL

by WorldTribune Staff, September 15, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama’s micromanagement of American airstrikes on Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Iraq, Syria and Libya has “put handcuffs on air power” and allowed the terror organization to survive, a group of admirals and generals supporting Donald Trump said.

According to U.S. Central Command, the U.S.-led coalition has launched 12,350 combat missions against ISIL this year. Of those, 6,575 — about half — dropped one or more weapons. The remainder did not unleash any ordnance.

President Barack Obama is treating ISIL as an insurgency rather than the functioning state that it is, one critic said. /White House photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama is treating ISIL as an insurgency rather than the functioning state that it is, one critic said. /White House photo by Pete Souza

“It is not an air campaign,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a Vietnam War fighter pilot and one of 88 admirals and generals who signed a letter supporting the GOP candidate. “In addition, a general in Baghdad must approve every bomb dropped — handcuffs on air power to let ISIL survive.”

The White House has designated a number of targets as off-limits — including buildings in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, “because they house civilians as well as fighters,” Washington Times security correspondent Rowan Scarborough reported on Sept. 14.

In Libya, the top U.S. general for Africa testified he needs White House approval for any airstrike.

Critics say Obama’s micromanagement has allowed ISIL to remain in operation for far too long. A “more intense campaign” could have killed more jihadists and saved more civilians from ISIL’s butchery, they say.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, an ex-fighter pilot and war planner, is among the air campaign’s fiercest critics.

“We have it within our capacity to demolish the Islamic State, leading to the elimination of their sanctuary to export terror to the United States,” Deptula told The Washington Times. “However, to do so will require moving beyond the current gradualist, sequential, Iraq-first approach to dealing with them. The anemic application of airstrikes must be replaced with a more robust, comprehensive, rapid and simultaneous use of air power — not simply in support of indigenous allied ground forces, but as the key force in decomposing the Islamic State.”

Meanwhile, Air Force Central Command is calling the campaign “the most precise in history.”

“Airpower and the ingenuity of Airmen enabled the Air Coalition, in concert with capable ground forces, to apply continued and persistent pressure on Da’esh,” the command said in a July 31 report. “The presence of civilians, hostages really, requires the Air Coalition to act with discipline and exacting precision to avoid harming the people we seek to protect.”

“Eroding revenue streams continued to remain a priority and will be a focus area headed forward,” the report said. “The Air Coalition has contributed to creating effects designed to create Da’esh decision-making confusion.”

Deptula countered that “the danger of attempting to conduct ‘immaculate warfare’ by overconstraining the application of air power is self-defeating, as it perpetrates the misperception that air power is incapable of accomplishing what it is actually very capable of delivering under the laws of war — the rapid disintegration of the Islamic State.

“It’s admirable that Operation Inherent Resolve air operations in the past two years have produced precise attacks with the fewest possible number of civilian casualties,” he said. “However, humanity, justice and civilization demand that the timid and feckless current administration policies that are delaying and inhibiting the means to halt the evil of the Islamic State be removed, and that we optimize our asymmetric advantage of air power.”

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, who took over command of Central Command Air Force in July, told reporters at the Pentagon on Sept. 13 that there will be no change in the rules of engagement.

“I can tell you that we will continue to use the very deliberate process that we have for both what we call deliberate targeting and then those situations that require dynamic targeting, which is typically what happens as you start to close in on the enemy, as you saw in Manbij and has happened in Fallujah and Ramadi, all the locations that we’ve been able to defeat Daesh,” Gen. Harrigian said.

Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the commander of Central Command, explained his philosophy to reporters on Aug. 30: “I think it’s well established the level of focus that we put on trying to prevent civilian casualties, and that certainly represents our operational approach, and it represents our values to how we conduct these operations.”

Deptula said a major flaw in the strategy is that the Obama administration is treating ISIL as an insurgency when it is a functioning state with administration buildings, communications centers, police, oil facilities and banks.

“A comprehensive air campaign to attack and nullify each of these elements simultaneously could have effectively halted the function of the Islamic State,” Deptula said. “However, current administration policy, supported by Central Command, [which] has spent more than a decade immersed in counterinsurgency, is treating the Islamic State as an insurgency and applying counterinsurgency-driven rules of engagement when the Islamic State demands a different approach.”