United States officials revealed on Saturday that Iraqi troops were killed accidentally in an airstrike carried out by an American plane.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter called the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to express condolences and to invite the country to participate in an official investigation into the airstrike which killed Iraqi troops, according to the New York Times.
Nine Iraqi soldiers and one officer were killed in the airstrike. Carter blamed the mistake on both parties and explained, “These kind of things can happen when you are fighting side by side as we are, on a dynamic battlefield.”
An anonymous American official told the New York Times that the airstrike plane was a B-1B bomber. It allegedly dropped several bombs, intended for ISIS targets, near Fallujah. However, one of the bombs hit Iraqi troops instead, as the troops appeared to either be closer to the targets than intended or perhaps weather played a factor.
Because Americans assisting Iraqi troops stay clear of the battlefield and stay on bases in Iraq, American soldiers in the sky must rely on Iraqi forces on the ground to relay adequate information on the ground to confirm certain targets. Americans stay on the bases to keep them safer.
“The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi Army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers, if circumstances dictate and if requested by Prime Minister Abadi,” said Carter to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Abadi is under pressure to reject American help from Shiite politicians who have ties to Iran.
Abadi did seem to accept that the American airstrike, which killed Iraqi troops, was a mistake.
However, the Associated Press reported Iraq’s Defence Minister, Khaled al-Obeidi, responded to reporters in Baghdad that Iraq had already started an investigation and the “wrongdoer would be punished according to Iraqi law.” He did not explain what he meant by that statement.
Shiite militia have been hit by American airstrikes in the past, said militia commander Hakim al-Zamili. Shiite militias have been fighting ISIS forces, too, and the commander has said the strikes have actually helped ISIS at times.
Many Iraqis are in mourning over the loss of the men in the troops who were hit by the “friendly-fire” airstrike. Concerns over their anger toward the U.S. and the West have been expressed.
Carter said, “I hope Iraqis will understand that this is a reflection of things that happen in combat. But it’s also a reflection of how closely we are working with the government” of Iraq.
Lawmaker Mohammed al-Karbouli claimed the U.S. consistently targets Iraqi forces and raises suspicion about the credibility of the involvement of the U.S. and its coalition and its actions in fighting ISIS.
Iraqi forces have been involved in fighting with ISIS in Fallujah and surrounding areas for the past six months, according to Junior College. ISIS does control most of that area. Although the airstrike from the Americans was supposed to support Iraqi forces, the Iraqi military did admit, “Our forces got mixed.”
The U.S. is expected to continue and perhaps accelerate its response to support forces fighting ISIS. More airstrike support is likely to occur.
[Photo by Muhannad Fala’ah/Getty Images]