No Micromanagement of Iraq Campaign, Air Boss Says

The coalition air component commander for the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria said he understands the “frustration” expressed by some pilots over their inability to hit enemy targets on every mission, but denied that was caused by “micromanagement” from commanders. “The guys who are a little bit frustrated … I expect guys to feel that way,” Air Force Lt. Gen. John Hesterman said, noting that he felt that way “when I was a captain” in early conflicts. A major reason for restrictions on strikes, he said in a telephone briefing, was the concern about minimizing civilian casualties. “We do go out of our way to protect civilians because it’s the right thing to do and it separates us from the terrorist, who kill everyone who isn’t them.” If pilots see the enemy firing on coalition forces, “we can strike very quickly. It doesn’t need approval from anybody. For a planned strike, the pilot has permission before he takes off.” But if there is a danger of civilian casualties, approval might take longer, “measured in minutes, not hours.” The claim “that we’re seeing large numbers of Da’esh targets and not killing them, is false,” he said, using the Arab term for ISIL.