US military operations have killed at least 132 civilians in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia in 2019, a Pentagon report revealed yesterday.
The report, which is conducted on an annual basis and is mandated by the US Congress, also stated that at least 91 civilians were injured as a result of military operations in the four countries.
“All DoD [Department of Defence] operations in 2019 were conducted in accordance with law of war requirements, including law of war protections for civilians, such as the fundamental principles of distinction and proportionality, and the requirement to take feasible precautions in planning and conducting attacks to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and other persons and objects protected from being made the object of an attack,” the Pentagon stated in its report.
The figures were broken down to show at least 22 civilians were killed and 13 injured in Iraq and Syria, 108 killed and 75 injured in Afghanistan, and two killed and three injured in Somalia.
In other conflict areas in the Middle East, such as Yemen and Libya, however, no civilian casualties were discovered or reported as having occurred during any military operations. These figures in countries in which there are officially no US forces are highly speculative, though, as casualties caused by drone strikes and allied forces in those locations are not counted in the annual report.
An example of this is Yemen, where the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in the ongoing civil war – supported by the US military – has been accused of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians. The Pentagon report, however, took into consideration only direct US military strikes against Daesh and Al-Qaeda in the country.
A tally of the drone strike fatalities were previously included in the end of the report, but that requirement put in place by former President Barack Obama was ended by his successor Donald Trump last year, rendering the figures inaccurate as civilians are subsequently not differentiated from military targets.
These inaccurate figures are reportedly relevant in all countries, and have been scrutinised and countered by watchdog groups such as Airwars, which has estimated that US military operations in Iraq and Syria in the first half of 2019 killed between 416 and 1,030 civilians.
Daphne Eviatar, the director of the Security with Human Rights program at the US branch of Amnesty International, said: “The Department of Defense’s submission of this year’s report marks some progress in terms of transparency of U.S. military operations. The content of the report, however, suggests that the Pentagon is still undercounting civilian casualties.”
“These reports can be a crucial accountability mechanism for thousands of families around the world waiting for justice, and a tool for transparency for everyone concerned about what is being carried out by the United States military in its operations every year.”
In order for the reports to accurately contribute to the process of accountability, however, she called for them to include “concrete information based on thorough investigations, and must lead to reparations for the families of the victims. So far, that’s not happening.”