UPDATE — 7/13, 9:24 a.m. EDT: A U.S. coalition commander, General Stephen Townsend, said Tuesday that allied forces will likely remain in Iraq after ISIS is defeated and that the number of troops on-the-ground will remain the same for the time being.
Gen. Townsend said both Baghdad and Washington have an “interest” in leaving coalition forces, led by the U.S., in place, but the future of Iraq depends on the country’s political climate post-ISIS.
“What will happen after the defeat of ISIS rides not on whether there’s a coalition presence or not, in my view, but predominantly rides on whether there’s a political reconciliation,” Townsend said. “And we’ve got to make sure – the Iraqis have to make sure after ISIS is defeated, that all Iraqis view the government in Baghdad as their government,” he said.
The U.S.-led coalition conducting daily air sorties against the Islamic State (ISIS) in both Iraq and Syria has admitted its airstrikes have killed over 600 civilians, according to a monthly report.
Combat operations under Inherent Resolve against the ISIS began in June 2014.
Citing 27 credible reports resulting in 119 unintended civilian deaths, a July 7 coalition press release read:
“To date, based on information available, CJTF-OIR [Combined Joint Task Force] assesses that, it is more likely than not, at least 603 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.”
Now at 603, the death toll rose by 119 since the last Inherent Resolve estimates were released in June, when civilian casualties stood at 484.
According to data, coalition sorties against ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria have surpassed 21,000
Inherent Resolve’s statement on casualty totals is at odds with totals assembled by Airwars, a rights group which says over 4,000 civilians have been victims of coalition airstrikes.
The UK-based group submits its own assessments to the coalition. As of July 7, the rights group says it has tendered 80 reports of civilian casualties to the coalition, 70 of which Inherent Resolve has rejected as baseless.
The coalition’s report was also challenged by the UN Human Rights Office, which characterized coalition statistics as “a conservative estimate” and death tolls higher than coalition claims.
[RT America] [Photo courtesy EPA via Al Jazeera]