Top US general denies claim of possible war crimes in Mosul fight
The top U.S. general in Iraq on Tuesday rebuffed claims from the human rights group Amnesty International that U.S.-led coalition strikes in Mosul violated international law.
“I reject any notion that coalition fires were in any way imprecise, unlawful or excessively targeted civilians,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told reporters at the Pentagon.
“I would challenge the people from Amnesty International or anyone else out there who makes these charges to first research their facts and make sure they’re speaking from a position of authority,” Townsend added.
Iraq on Monday declared “total victory” over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Mosul, the country’s second largest city, which had served as an ISIS stronghold after being seized in 2014 by militants pushing to build a caliphate.
The campaign to retake Mosul in northern Iraq lasted nearly nine months, destroying much of the city and leaving more than 5,000 civilians dead while displacing nearly 1 million others.
Paralleling the victory announcement, Amnesty International on Monday released a new report asserting that the tactics used by coalition and Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul “may amount to war crimes.”
Covering the fight in west Mosul from January to mid-May, the report found that coalition and Iraqi forces “failed to adapt their tactics” and “continued to use imprecise, explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated urban environments” even as civilians were unable to escape from the area.
The group asserts Iraqi forces and the coalition “appear to have committed repeated violations of international humanitarian law.”
The forces used “a choice of weapons that was inappropriate for the circumstances,” and failed to take necessary precautions to verify all targets were a military objective, inadvertently killing civilians, the report found.
But Townsend defended the fighting techniques, saying he believes the battle against ISIS was the “most precise campaign in the history of warfare.”
The coalition took “extraordinary measures to safeguard civilian lives, measuring every single time how many civilians may or may not be in the target area and what munition to employ and how can we strike that building and take out only that room and not the entire floor or the entire building,” he said.