US President Donald Trump has praised American troops for doing “very well” in Iraq, maintaining his silence on an airstrike in Mosul that killed scores of civilians earlier this month.
Speaking to a group of senators gathered at the White House on Tuesday, Trump said "our soldiers are fighting like never before" in Iraq and the Arab country was on a positive trajectory in pushing back terrorist groups.
“The results are very, very good,” Trump said, fresh off a phone conversation with Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “I just wanted to let everyone know.”
The rare remarks, which appeared to be unscripted, were in contrast with Washington’s claims that its more than 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq do not partake in the battle against terrorist groups and only provide logistic support to Iraqi forces.
The US combat mission in Iraq ended in 2010, when former president Barack Obama ordered almost all US troops to withdraw from the Arab state.
Despite Trump’s silence, the Pentagon has admitted that one of its airstrikes in Mosul on March 17 may have led to the death of at least 237 civilians.
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, who currently commands the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, said Tuesday that the US “probably had a role in those casualties.”
However, he said the level of damage and the extent of casualties showed that the deadly strike was not entirely Washington’s fault.
“The enemy had a hand in this,” he explained, stressing that “It sure looks like” the civilians has been forced to gather in the building by the terrorists. “What I don’t know is why they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy?"
On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it was analyzing over 700 video feeds from airstrikes on west Mosul following the increasing number of reports of civilian causalities.
The Mosul raid was the Trump administration’s second unsuccessful attempt in tackling terrorism. Days after taking office in January, he authorized a raid in Yemen, which ended up killing several civilians, including women and children, as well as an American Navy SEAL.
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