War on Terror

President Trump Escalates Wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Maybe Afghanistan Too

A U.S. airstrike in Mosul could have caused the largest civilian casualties since the start of the Iraq War.


White House

U.S. military officials are investigating an airstrike in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city which has been mostly occupied by ISIS since June 2014. Iraqis have said up to 200 civilians could've been killed in the strike, and an initial review by the U.S. military found that "scores" of civilians were killed after a building hit by U.S. airstrikes collapsed a few days later, as The New York Times reports. U.S. investigators are now trying to find out whether the airstrike caused the building to collapse or whether ISIS may have detonated an explosive there instead.

The New York Times also reports that according to at least one Iraqi officer there had been "a noticeable relaxing of the coalition's rules of engagement" since President Trump took office. "Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration's rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt," The Times continued. "Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes."

The Trump administration has rejected such suggestions. While Trump has asked commanders in January to look at relaxing restrictions on airstrikes, military officials say that has not happened yet. "We go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people," Defense Secretary James Mattis said at a Pentagon press conference, according to The Washington Post. "The same cannot be said for our adversaries and that is up to you to sort out." The Post reports that according to Airwars, a monitoring group based in the United Kingdom, the frequency of alleged civilian deaths in U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria has surpassed civilian deaths there linked to Russian strikes.

The Mosul strike comes as the U.S. is increasing troop levels in Iraq, and Syria, as part of the campaign against ISIS. The Military Times reports that an unknown number of U.S. combat troops have been ordered into northern Iraq, likely to participate in the ongoing effort to secure Mosul from ISIS. The U.S. is also sending more troops into Syria, with at least 500 being sent to take part in the attack on Raqqa, ISIS' de facto capital, something Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) wrote happened without any official notification. "President Trump has been busy dramatically expanding the American troop presence inside Syria," Murphy wrote in an op-ed for the Hartford Courant. "And virtually no one in Washington has noticed. Americans have a right to know what Trump is planning and whether this will lead to an Iraq-style occupation of Syria for years to come."

The Trump administration has already signaled it will keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the campaign against ISIS is over. "The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said even as there is no end in sight for the war against ISIS. ISIS, in any case, is a successor organization to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which gained a foothold in that country only because of the 2003 U.S. invasion. The overall Al-Qaeda network traces its roots back to terrorist organizations around back in the 1990s. The September 11th attacks, which neither Al-Qaeda nor any other Islamist terrorist group has been able to come anywhere close to since, gave the group new life by dragging the U.S. and its allies into protracted conflicts around the Muslim world that have only served to increase the number of safe havens for such terrorist groups.

In Afghanistan, which was one of the only safe havens for Islamist terror groups before 9/11 but is now one of many, Gen. John Nicholson, is continuing to push for additional troops in Afghanistan, telling The Sunday Times that the U.S. and Europe need to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. "Failure here would embolden terrorists globally," Nicholson said, ignoring that the last decade-plus of failures there has already done so. The U.S. would have been best off leaving Afghanistan after largely destroying the Al-Qaeda network there in the early 2000s. Nicholson's push for what essentially amounts to more nation-building cuts against Trump's campaign rhetoric against nation-building, but fits into Trump's campaign and presidential rhetoric about escalating the war on terror.

The Trump administration has its eyes on Yemen as well, where it has already conducted more airstrikes in the first third of the year than the U.S. had in all of 2016. Mattis has requested that the White House lift restrictions on U.S. military support for the Saud-led coalition in the Yemen civil war, writing to the national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, that "limited support" would help combat a "common threat." Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war that erupted two years ago when Houthi rebels alleged to be backed by Iran overthrew the U.S.-backed authoritarian government. Since then, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the U.S. had previously spent years bombing, has benefited from Saudi Arabia's air campaign, filling the void created by Saudi bombing. The Trump administration has already ramped up its counterterrorism operations in Yemen—U.S. involvement in the actual civil war itself is no guarantee Al-Qaeda won't continue to be a benefactor of the now two-year-old war. The Trump administration is "reviewing" its overall Yemen policy, and that process is supposed to be completed next month.

A bipartisan effort to get Congress to vote on specific authorizations for the use of military force against ISIS as well as against Yemen, meanwhile, has gotten nowhere, despite Trump's openness on the campaign trail for just such an authorization. Congress' failure over the last decade to either specifically authorize ongoing U.S. military campaigns (let alone actually declaring a war as prescribed in the Constitution) or to defund them has accelerated the accumulation of military power in the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch's constitutional role. That process, in turn, has made it easier for political inertia to lead to ever-more military quagmires. Like Obama, Trump will keep pushing the envelope on executive military power. Congress is running out of time to push back.

NEXT: Donald Trump's Climate Change Executive Order Will Make Energy Cheaper

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    1. You never answer anyone’s question BP so you are going to have to continue to fuck off!

    2. Beautiful oil, beautiful. Believe me. Believe me.

  1. Blowing up shit is so cool.

    So say all politicians and dumbass sheep.

    We will soon hear the drum beat of” war is good for the economy” from Rush Limbaugh et al.

    Please explain to me how making things that have no return on investment and that cost a lot of money, to then just blow them up, is a sound deployment of capital.

    1. It’s all spending sooo increase in velocity!!!! /keynes

    2. What do you think is their actual motiv’n? Do they sincerely not think these actions to be the most efficient way to peace, & instead like to blow shit up?

    3. Forget Limbaugh, you’re going to hear from a lot of “libertarians” why bombing shit for no reason is pro-freedom.

      1. The voices in your head don’t count, shitbrick.

      2. To whom do you refer?

        Perhaps you mean libertarians like Bill Maher?

        1. Cytotoxic hasn’t been around in a while

    4. Any money we put into military hardware is (at least in theory, damnit) money the buttinski government can’t spend on poisonous domestic programs.

      Not saying that justifies the wars, but blowing up the middle east inflicts less damage on us at home than a great may other idiot ideas.

  2. Doesn’t Trump get a pass on this one, because not-Hillary?

    1. Oh yeah, well what do you think Shillbot would have done? What about her blatant dis….blablabla

  3. U.S. investigators are now trying to find out whether the airstrike caused the building to collapse or whether ISIS may have detonated an explosive there instead.

    They some kind of idiot nutjob conspiracy theorists thinking a building would have to collapse from an interior detonation rather than from being hit at high speed by something flying into it? Next thing you know, they’ll be claiming kerosene doesn’t burn hot enough to melt steel.

  4. “War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” James Madison, “Political Observations,” 1795.

    1. Had he lived another century, Madison would no doubt have observed a shitload of new items for that list.

      1. Very true. He’s my favorite Founding Father because he was so exceptionally complicated, even more so than Jefferson. He was brilliant about the Constitution but rather terrible actually in office as Sec of State and President. Also, he was at least in my opinion the best writer of the bunch, and that is high praise indeed. His words need few glosses even today.

        1. No costlier war than the war on poverty.

          1. War on drug strikes me as a contender; it’s fallout (straightforward monetary costs aside) includes keeping lots of poor brown people IN poverty, so some of the cost of the poverty war can be laid at its door. Also, we can thank the war on drugs for the erosion of our Fourth Amendment rights, for the militarization of the Police (with attendent secondary costs), and probably a dozen other (expensive) secondary consequences. The war on poverty is an expensive failure, but while it is bad enough, it strikes me as less corrosive to society then the impulse to Prohibition.

  5. ‘Member when some people claimed Trump was going to be a non-interventionist? ‘Member?

    1. I completely agree. The idea that Trump was non-interventionist was completely overblown.

      As I recall, his position in the debates was that he “loved war, in a way.” But he wanted to win wars and then get out. So, more Nixonian/Kissingerian Realism than Paulistinian non-interventionism. And that’s what the voters wanted. They’re not anti-war so long as the US wins.

      1. This. The issue isn’t “Is Trump escalating the wars we are in?” but “Is he escalaing them to some purpose?”. We (and the rest of the West) are at war with Jihadist Islam, and have been since at least the 1970’s, and arguably since the Muslim Brotherhood allied itself with that stinking Austrian. Pretending otherwise has not gone well. Half-assing various conflicts in that war has not gone well.

        I’m not sure what WOULD go well, but I’m willing to give escalation a try.

        Let’s see how Tweety-boy does.

    2. How anyone fell for that nonsense (of Trump being less interventionist) is truly beyond me. I find it hard to believe that so many libertarians could be so stupid. The only explanation that makes sense to me is that they were being disingenuous about their real reason for supporting Trump.

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    WTF is this shit? “Guru meditation?” Are the squirrelz going all zen on us now?

  7. And the worst part is he probably has cankles too.

    1. You know, Tony, just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this?and totally redeem yourself!

  8. Wait till Trump drone-murders a wedding party. The chat parrots will be apoplectic.
    Or not.

  9. Perhaps they need a few “Dresden” demonstration projects to get the message that they need to “go home and quit bothering people”?

  10. “In Afghanistan, which was one of the only safe havens for Islamist terror groups before 9/11 but is now one of many, Gen. John Nicholson, is continuing to push for additional troops in Afghanistan, telling The Sunday Times that the U.S. and Europe need to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. ”

    Well that’s a hell of a sentence.

    1. This is a classic example of just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  11. if your already fighting and people are dying then its really a moot point and therefore not an escalation.

    1. So there was no escalation from the kerfuffle in Poland to D-Day, since people were already fighting? Got it! Knowledge acquired.

  12. Has the New York Times blamed the Jews yet?

  13. In Afghanistan, which was one of the only safe havens for Islamist terror groups before 9/11 but is now one of many, Gen. John Nicholson, is continuing to push for additional troops in Afghanistan, telling The Sunday Times that the U.S. and Europe need to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

    Wait, where again?

    1. That quote contains a lot of assumptions I’m not willing to buy. “One of the only”? Numbers, please. Maybe one of the few countries that didn’t PRETEND they weren’t harboring terrorist, when they were.

      Which doesn’t mean I think the war is being well fought.

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