According to Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigan, the commander of US air forces in the Middle East, the anti-ISIS coalition is now planning on carrying out airstrikes against any fleeing ISIS fighters around Mosul, trying to prevent escape from the massive city with aerial surveillance and targeted strikes.
This appears to be a response to growing concerns, both within the region and internationally, that the fall of Mosul will mean thousands of seasoned ISIS fighters popping up elsewhere around the world, destabilizing the Middle East and Europe.
Preventing them from escaping Mosul, however, raises a major concern that the relative lack of US intelligence on who it is targeting, and determination to shoot first and ask questions later is going to lead to US warplanes attacking groups of fleeing civilians that they come across.
The “solution” to this appears to be preventing civilians from fleeing the city as well, despite it being an open combat zone that will likely be facing months of combat. Iraqi officials are now said to be warning Mosul civilians not to try to escape, insisting they will be safer if they stay put.
Staying put in a city during an invasion is far from safe, but suggests US warplanes are going to be particularly indiscriminate in targeting people fleeing Mosul. In the recent offensive against the ISIS city of Manbij, US warplanes killed hundreds of civilians they “mistook” for ISIS, and Mosul is a much larger city with a lot more people to be mistaken for ISIS.