We're starting with a couple of reports concerning U.S. troops in the Middle East. First, more are serving there. There's been a battle going on for the Iraqi city of Mosul since last October. It's the last stronghold of the ISIS terrorist group in Iraq. American troops have been supporting Iraqi forces as they try to push ISIS out.
Soldiers with U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division are deploying to give more help to the Iraqis. A U.S. defense official says the number of American troops going is in the low hundreds.
"The Military Times" reports that there are more than 6,000 U.S. troops now serving in Iraq and though they're officially there to advise and assist Iraqi forces, some of the Americans are believed to be close to the fighting if not directly in it.
Another way the U.S. is supporting Iraq in the battle is through airpower. And on March 17th, at least 112 civilians were apparently killed by an airstrike. The U.S. military is currently investigating whether it was a U.S. plane that launched the strike in Western Mosul. It's a densely populated part of the city and an Army lieutenant general says ISIS was fighting from the position, but that what's not clear if they picked a place where there were civilians to lure the U.S., or if ISIS was using civilians as human shields. He says the enemy had a hand in the deaths, and that the U.S. military might have, too.
LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, TOP U.S. COMMANDER ON MOSUL STRIKE: If we didn't strike in that area, I'd be telling you right now, it's unlikely.
But because we struck in that area, I think there's a fair chance that we did it. My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties. Now, here's what I don't know —what I don't know is: were they gathered there by the enemy?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The destruction here in western Mosul appears to be significantly more vast and widespread than it was in the eastern side. And you also see that there are a lot of these really narrow alleyways that winded deeper into the neighborhoods. This is one of the main challenges that the security forces are facing.
You barely see any civilians but you do see the traces of the life that was, of how bustling these particular areas would have normally been. And part of the challenge when it is civilian population is that even though the Iraqi government did, yes, encourage people to stay put in their homes, if they wanted to leave, they wouldn't have been able to, because ISIS would not allow them to leave these neighborhoods. ISIS was holding everyone that live across this entire city as human shields.