Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Nov. 19 the US is “prepared” to change the rules of engagement in Iraq and Syria to better attack ISIS, though looser rules may not have a dramatic impact on targeting the terrorist group. “We’ve reviewed the [rules of engagement], we review them all the time,” Carter said during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday. However, a review of the data from all of the US airstrikes shows “the thing that most enhances the impact of the air campaign is better and better intelligence.” Carter said the coalition already has changed its tactics, pointing to the recent airstrikes against oil trucks used by ISIS. “The oil infrastructure is something the civilian population benefits from as well. You don’t want to punish the people,” said Carter, who cited the importance of intelligence in identifying “the part of the infrastructure used by ISIL to finance their operations” and to identify ISIS fuel convoys operating outside of town. Former Air Forces Central Command boss Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, now director of the Air Staff, addressed pilots’ “frustration” over the rules of engagement earlier this summer. “We do go out of our way to protect civilians because it’s the right thing to do and it separates us from the terrorists,” he said.
As the U.S. continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Russia over its troop buildup on the Ukraine border, the Defense Department is looking into what capabilities it will need to reassure NATO allies if Russia does launch an invasion, its top spokesperson said Jan. 21.