Frustrated American pilots and retired generals are striking out at the Obama Pentagon’s restrictive rules of engagement and White House micromanagement they say are crippling the war against Islamic State terrorists before it even gets off the ground.
“There were times I had groups of ISIS fighters in my sights, but couldn’t get clearance to engage,” one F-18 Navy pilot told Fox News.
“They probably killed innocent people and spread evil because of my inability to kill them,” he added. “It was frustrating.”
Pilots are forced to seek approval before engaging each target, a process they say takes an hour on the average. By the time approval is received, conditions on the ground or the air often change.
“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,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Afghanistan, told Fox News.
“These are excessive procedures that are handing our adversary an advantage.”
And he places the blame directly on the steps of the White House.
“The ultimate guidance rests in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” he said. “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.”
The U.S. Air Force’s Central Command pushed back at the complaints.
“We refute the idea that close air support strikes take ‘an hour on average.’ Depending on the how complex the target environment is, a strike could take place in less than 10 minutes or it could take much longer,” a central command spokesman said, according to Fox News.
“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.”
Fox News Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin told Shepard Smith Wednesday that U.S. pilots are averaging 14 strikes per day targeting the Islamic State.
“Compare that to the first Gulf War,” she said. “The United States averaged 1,125 strikes per day. In Kosovo 135 strikes a day.”
But a senior defense official called those unfair comparisons.
“The Gulf War and Kosovo are not reasonable comparisons. In those instances, we were fighting conventional forces. Today, we are supporting a fight against terrorists who blend into the civilian population,” he said. “Our threshold for civilian casualties and collateral damage is low. We don’t want to own this fight. We have reliable partners on the ground.”
But it’s not just the pilots who are frustrated — allies are too.
Iraqi officials are complaining that the Obama administration’s excessive caution in approving airstrikes is giving the terrorists a huge advantage, according to The New York Times.
The seven buildings comprising Islamic State headquarters, located in Raqqa, Syria, for instance, have been off limits for targeting in the 10 months since they were first identified, out of a fear of collateral damage to the civilian population.
They also cite numerous missed opportunities to strike troop movements. The Times reported:
And just last week, convoys of heavily armed Islamic State fighters paraded triumphantly through the streets of the provincial capital Ramadi in western Iraq after forcing Iraqi troops to flee. They rolled on unscathed by coalition fighter-bombers.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently charged that 75 percent of U.S. pilots return to base without having released a single weapon, according to Fox.
It’s not a way to win a war.
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