On Monday, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top U.S. commander in the fight against ISIS, criticized the idea of “carpet bombings” against the terrorist group. MacFarland, who heads the coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, gave more detailed criticism of the concept and explained why it is unacceptable from a military standpoint.
“We’re the United States of America and we have a set of guiding principles,” MacFarland told CNN. “And those affect the way we as professional soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines conduct ourselves on the battlefield. So, indiscriminate bombing, where we don’t care if we’re killing innocents or combatants, is just inconsistent with our values.”
While MacFarland didn’t specifically name any political candidate in his response, Republican senator Ted Cruz has previously suggested “carpet bombing” ISIS.
“We will carpet-bomb [ISIS] into oblivion,” Cruz said in Iowa last month.
Attn: Ted Cruz! Carpet bombing is when you bomb hospitals, schools, civilian neighborhoods, everything that moves. It's a war crime.— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) January 29, 2016
Lt. Gen. MacFarland, who was named the new commanding general of the US-led coalition in Iraq on October 1, 2015, also said that “we are bound by the laws of armed conflict. And you know at the end of the day, it doesn’t only matter if you win, it matters how you win.”
MacFarland also recalled how Russian forces have been accused of indiscriminate bombing, which has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians in northwest Syria.
“Right now we have the moral high ground and I think that’s where we need to stay,” he added.
The idea of defeating ISIS by carpet bombing has been mentioned several times during the Republican presidential race, and Cruz is a particular advocate of this approach.
During the Republican debate in December, Wolf Blitzer of CNN asked Cruz the following question.
“You have said you would, quote, ‘carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,’ testing whether, quote, ‘sand can glow in the dark.’ Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?”
“What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS,” Cruz responded, adding, “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is — not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed — and you have embedded special forces to (direct) the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.”
MacFarland recently pointed out that coalition forces have made significant progress in the 18 months since strikes against ISIS began. He said that there have been around 10,000 strikes against ISIS, two-thirds of which have occurred in Iraq. He also noted that ISIS now controls 40 percent less territory than it did at its “zenith.”
As reported by the Daily Caller, MacFarland noted that the recent victory over ISIS in Ramadi, a key city less than 100 miles from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, was crucial in that it showed Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) as “capable of defeating Daesh,” citing it as being one of the greatest victories in the fight against the terrorist group since its offensive began in the region in June 2014.
During a video conference from Baghdad to reporters at the Pentagon, the general acknowledged that Syria is a more complex problem, the key point in the battle against IS would be the liberation of the city of Raqa, where a stronghold of extremists often display human heads on spikes at the central roundabout and crucified bodies hang for days to terrorize local residents.
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