Hesterman: Air War in Iraq Not Like Past Campaigns

The coalition air component commander for Iraq and Syria sharply rejected the growing criticism of the air campaign Friday, arguing that the air tactics used in previous conflicts “do not apply” to the fight against a terrorist organization that does not have massed forces and “wraps itself around the civilian population.” Air Forces Central Command boss Lt. Gen. John Hesterman said the reports that 75 percent of strike sorties do not drop a weapon is “probably right,” because strike aircraft are over the battlefield “24/7,” but often cannot find enemy forces that are clear of civilians. “We go after them wherever we find them, but it’s different from all the previous air campaigns that people talk about,” Hesterman said in a telephone briefing with Pentagon reporters. “But make no mistake, our coalition team is having a profound effect on the enemy … Coalition air strikes are the most precise and disciplined in the history of air warfare. We can impact the enemy in a significant way and do it while minimizing civilian casualties.” Air power “has not only been effective, it has enabled virtually every victory on the battlefield. It has allowed ground forces to regain territory” and has killed 1,000 enemy each month, he said. (See also Airpower is Making a Difference in ISIS Fight.)