Kirby Rejects Claims of Civilian Casualties in Syria Air Campaign

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby lashed out Tuesday against the tone of some news stories on the air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, calling them “shrill and unbalanced.” He specifically highlighted what he called unsubstantiated claims of civilian casualties and criticism that the attacks have not stopped some ISIS advances. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday, Kirby said US Central Command has seen no evidence that civilians have been killed in the air strikes, but he emphasized the command is seriously studying the possibility. He noted the care US forces take to avoid harming noncombatants. “We’re not hiding behind civilians and ducking into homes and hospitals as these guys (ISIS) are doing,” he said. Kirby conceded that the 310 total air strikes conducted so far have not eliminated the threat of ISIS, acknowledging that, “We cannot bomb these guys away.” But he insisted the attacks have hurt the terrorists’ capabilities, slowed their advances, and have helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces to regain some ground. Kirby expressed confidence US air support would allow Iraqi forces to protect Baghdad from ISIS. He said the fact that US aircraft conducted all 22 strikes Tuesday was a factor of aircraft availability and not a lack of coalition support.