By Meaghan Fleck, International News Writer
After a massive explosion in Mosul last week, dozens of Iraqi civilians were trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings in the area. The number of casualties is still unconfirmed as more bodies are being recovered, however, Iraqi officials have reported over 80 deaths so far. While it was initially unclear what caused the detonation, many sources now suggest that US-led coalitions performing air strikes in the residential area may be at fault. It is thought that one of many US airstrikes performed in the area around the time of the detonation hit a nearby truck carrying explosives which caused the destruction. According to the Washington Post, if US responsibility is established, this incident “could potentially rank among one of the most devastating attacks on civilians by American forces in more than two decades.”
Back in 2013, President Obama established the Presidential Policy Guidance which was intended to prevent unnecessary harm to civilians by creating a more stringent vetting process for proposed attacks, specifically airstrikes. Earlier this week President Trump made the decision to roll back this policy in Somalia meaning that anyone thought to be connected to al Shabab may be targeted “without any reason to think that the individual poses a particular and specific threat to Americans” according to the New York Times.
This recent policy change paired with the devastating civilian casualties in Mosul calls into question the US system for directing airstrikes. President Trump has made clear that accelerated action against potential terror threats is a key point of his military strategy in an attempt to make strikes more effective. This means that the interdepartmental vetting that was introduced in 2013 will be eliminated, making the process for directing strikes less rigorous and more streamlined. However, considering the recent deadly attacks, concerns have been raised about what effect this strategy will have on innocent civilians.
As ISIS presence in West Mosul has increased alarmingly over the past few months, so has the coordination of US-led airstrikes. However, US commanders are put in a difficult position as many ISIS fighters are notorious for using civilians as human shields and have increasingly been hiding and fighting in heavily populated areas.
Amnesty International reported that Iraqis living in the area of last week’s airstrike were “repeatedly advised to remain at home rather than fleeing the area”. While investigations are underway into the definite causes and circumstances surrounding the strike, it is apparent that extra measures need to be taken to prevent the Iraqi civilian death toll from rising even further than it has in recent months.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th print edition.
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