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How the US should approach ISIS’ human shield strategy in Raqqa

by Natalie Chudnovsky | AirTalk®

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Kurdish Syrian representative in France Khaled Issa shows a map of alleged attacks against Kurdish forces as he accuses Turkey of "massively attacking" Kurdish forces trying to recapture Raqqa. ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

As local ground forces supported by U.S. led airstrikes close in on two of the Islamic State’s urban holds, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, there’s growing concern over how the U.S. will approach ISIS’s strategy of using human shields.

Civilian casualties have been a recent topic of controversy in the battle for Mosul, with Amnesty International saying the coalition didn’t take enough precautions in recent strikes, while others claim the moral responsibility for the deaths lies with ISIS.

We look ahead to the coming battle in Raqqa, where a win for the coalition would mean the destruction of ISIS’s main base in northern Syria. Currently, an estimated 300,000 residents are trapped there, used as human shields by the Islamic State. All men in the city have been forced to wear jihadi clothing, so it’s difficult to differentiate between civilians and militants.  

What should the U.S. strategy be in approaching ISIS’s use of human shields in Raqqa? Has our strategy changed under the new administration? What is the best approach, considering the humanitarian and military factors at stake?


Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch

Nicholas Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and expert on ISIS strategy and tactics

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