The United States was aware of Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) plans to retake the strategically important Iraqi city of Ramadi but failed to take action to prevent the jihadist group’s offensive, according to Bloomberg News’ editorial division.
Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake writes that the U.S. allowed ISIS to take Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province.
“U.S. intelligence and military officials told me recently, on the condition of anonymity, that the U.S. had significant intelligence about the pending Islamic State offensive in Ramadi,” states Bloomberg View. “For the U.S. military, it was an open secret even at the time.”
“The U.S. watched Islamic State fighters, vehicles and heavy equipment gather on the outskirts of Ramadi before the group retook the city in mid-May,” adds the editorial. “But the U.S. did not order airstrikes against the convoys before the battle started. It left the fighting to Iraqi troops, who ultimately abandoned their positions.”
Quoting Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula (ret.), who planned and executed major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bloomberg View declares that restrictive rules of engagement for U.S. pilots was part of the problem in Ramadi.
Pilots flying sorties in Iraq “have to call back and ask, ‘mother may I’ before they can engage,” said the retired general, who was the first deputy chief of staff for the Air Force for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
“The current rules of engagement are intentionally designed to restrict the effectiveness of air power to prevent potential collateral damage,” he later added. “That results in ISIS getting the freedom of action so they can commit genocide against civilians. Does this make any sense?”
Genieve David, a spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, acknowledged that the U.S. employs a “dynamic targeting process” in Iraq and Syria, with a focus on limiting civilian casualties and collateral damage.
According to Lt. Gen. Deptula, the restrictive rules of engagement are benefiting the enemy.
Other setbacks in the battle of Ramadi mentioned by Bloomberg View include the Iraqi military abandoning their positions and not having enough weapons and ammunition, as well as U.S. Special Operation forces not being authorized to accompany Iraqi troops into battle.
“If the administration is only going to use airstrikes, they are going to have expand what constitutes a target,” Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told Bloomberg View. “I have been concerned for a long time that the limited number of targets would ultimately lead to the fall of many cities in Iraq.”
ISIS publicly discussed its intention to recapture Ramadi before seizing the city.
“The U.S. intelligence community had good warning that the Islamic State intended a new and bolder offensive on Ramadi because it was able to identify the convoys of heavy artillery, vehicle bombs and reinforcements through overhead imagery and eavesdropping on chatter from local Islamic State commanders,” notes Bloomberg View.