At about the same time President Obama began a long, defensive appearance before reporters questioning his handling of the war against the Islamic State, the Pentagon announced Monday that American warplanes had struck a group of Islamic State trucks involved in the oil-smuggling business that brings the terrorist organization hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
The strike, near Abu Kamal, in Syria, destroyed 116 fuel trucks out of nearly 300 massed in the area, according to the Pentagon. While U.S. forces engaged in the anti-Islamic State fight, Operation Inherent Resolve, have sometimes hit the Islamic State oil trucks before, Monday's strike was "the first time that we've hit so many at once," a coalition spokesman told AFP.
Obama announced the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State on Sept. 10, 2014, pledging to "redouble our efforts to cut off [Islamic State] funding." Given that the oil-stealing business is the terrorist group's financial lifeblood, why has it taken until now to hit the Islamic State's oil transport capability in a significant way?
The answer, apparently, is that Obama was worried about civilian casualties. What if even one civilian driving an Islamic State truck, or near a truck, was killed in a U.S. attack? That concern, apparently, was enough to stop American forces from attacking a critical part of the Islamic State's support system.
Such worries are entirely consistent with the entire U.S. war against the Islamic State. "Our air campaign, since it began, has been the most restrictive in terms of rules of engagement that we have ever entered into in the last 25 years," said Jack Keane, a retired Army four-star general who now chairs the Institute for the Study of War. "This has been largely due to the White House's insistence that there be zero civilian casualties, at the behest of the president of the United States."