KOBANE – As part of its campaign against the militant group of Islamic State (ISIS), the Pentagon emphasized that the US support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will continue despite of the risk of civilian casualties and calls by the Syrian opposition to stop airstrikes.
“This is a complicated situation and we will continue to apply the rigor that we always do in terms of minimizing the risk to civilians, but we are supporting those forces because this is, as I said before, a critical moment in this campaign. This is a critical piece of territory. It is a place where we feel strongly that ISIL [ISIS] has planned external attacks outside of Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said on Saturday.
“And that makes it all the more important why those local forces that we’re supporting can capture this territory and — and remove ISIL from this area, and that requires air support by the coalition that we’ll continue to provide,” he said.
“But obviously, this is a situation — this most recent one, there have been — there’s at least one other strike in which, again, a credibility assessment has already been conducted and determined to be credible, that we’re going to apply the rigor and the diligence needed to find out exactly what happened here,” he admitted.
But the Pentagon spokesman acknowledged that the Syrian border city of Manbij is a difficult environment where ISIS is using civilians as human shields. “But this is a difficult environment, and I would be clear about that, the urban environment here and the complicating factor about the enemy we’re targeting, what they’re doing with regard to the civilians around them,” he said.
“They are not taking steps to protect civilians — innocent civilian life,” he said, in reference to ISIS shooting civilians in Manbij.
Moreover, the Pentagon official rejected the idea of halting airstrikes.
“Well, those local forces we’re supporting might have a different view if we weren’t conducting those airstrikes in their support,” he said. “I imagine you would be asking me some of the same questions if those forces came under attack from ISIL, because we weren’t providing some of the air support to them.”