The Pentagon on Thursday predicted Islamic militants will try to adapt to U.S. airstrikes in Syria and said the U.S. air campaign could be complicated by the group’s ability to blend into civilian populations.
"There is no questions that it obviously complicates the use of air power because we do take such care, unlike them, to not hit innocent civilians, to not hurt innocent people," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said on CNN. "So yes it is going to complicate it from the air."
He said it would require "competent partners" on the ground, including Iraqi security forces and vetted rebels in Syria, to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
U.S. Central Command announced Wednesday it had hit a dozen ISIS-controlled oil refineries in eastern Syria, with the help of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
"We expect that they are going to react to the pressure that we put them under," Kirby said. "We've seen them change and adapt inside of Iraq. We expect them to change and adapt inside Syria. What I can tell you is we are pretty adaptive ourselves, and we're going to react appropriately to try to keep putting the pressure on them.”
Citing observers on the ground, The Associated Press reported the strikes killed at least 14 militants plus another five people who observers said could have been wives and children of the militants.
"We also take care to make sure that we limit civilian casualties or collateral damage as much as possible," Kirby added, talking generally about the issue. "We try to be very precise and very lethal. Look if we make a mistake, we are certainly going to own up for that. But we are going to be very careful here as we move forward."