- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The U.S. command in Iraq acknowledged Wednesday that some civilians were killed when it targeted two cash centers in Mosul, as war planners weighed the benefit of destruction against the downside of collateral damage.

The targets held millions in currency used to pay Islamic State fighters, an enticement for foreign recruits to travel from around the globe to wreak havoc for the so-called caliphate.

Former air war planners told The Washington Times this week that the 17-month-old air campaign over Syria and Iraq has been so consumed with not hitting civilians that the Islamic State’s government and propaganda machinery go untouched, especially in the terrorists’ declared capital of Raqqa, Syria.

Army Col. Steven Warren, the top U.S. spokesman in Baghdad, said planners weighed the pros and cons of hitting the cash site. He said the total number of civilians killed at both buildings the past week was “extraordinarily low — single digit.”

“I will tell you, yes, we were prepared to accept civilian casualties in conjunction with this cash strike,” Col. Warren told reporters at the Pentagon. “It’s tragic, and it’s not something that we want to do. One of the burdens of command is to weigh the military value of a target versus the potential for civilian loss of life and the potential for collateral damage.

“These are tough decisions the commanders have to make. So, yes, we were prepared to accept some civilian casualties in association with this strike.”

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a key planner for the devastating Desert Storm air war 25 years ago this month, told The Times that the overall air assault on the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS, has been too timid for over 500 days of bombing.

“I can tell you, the headquarters buildings, the buildings in which they administer their finances, control their oil production, their electricity generations, their prison system, their police system — those are all physical locations in Raqqa that have not been struck as a result of this zero civilian/collateral damage standard,” Mr. Deptula said.

“They have been going through excess amounts of time and analysis to determine whether or not a target can be struck to achieve zero civilian casualties. You can understand from that standard that, therefore, there are many, many, many targets that are critical to allowing the Islamic State its ability to operate,” he said.

With the recent two cash strikes, the coalition all told has bombed nine sites identified as holding terrorists’ money in Syria and Iraq.

Col. Warren stressed the accuracy of U.S. precision munitions that, guided by GPS, can squarely hit one building while doing limited damage to its neighbors.

“Striking these cash-collection points hurts this enemy, right?” he said “They operate on cash, right? There is no credit in ISIL.”

The U.S. task force running Operation Inherent Resolve has shifted some focus on preparing for an invasion of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the Islamic State’s biggest prize in the country.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was in Paris on Wednesday trying to persuade allies to contribute more — in this case, scores of additional trainers to work with the eight brigades, or 24,000 troops, needed to retake Mosul.

“[Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi] has asked for additional enablers, and we’re working now with him to figure out exactly what that looks like,” Col. Warren said.

Possible “enablers” include trainers, logistics systems and platforms that can surveil and collect intelligence.

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