No one will be held responsible for airstrike that killed up to 64 civilians, report says
An internal Pentagon investigation found that a 2019 airstrike that killed up to 64 civilians in Syria did not violate US rules of engagement or the laws of war, and was not carried out with “blind contempt”. Some military officers have deemed the incident, which the Pentagon still maintains necessary to eliminate IS fighters, a war crime.
On March 18, 2019, an American F-15E fighter jet dropped a bomb on “a great crowd of women and children huddled against the bank of a river” near the Syrian town of Baghuz and then proceeded to bring down several more, killing survivors, according to a New York Times report published last November.
US Central Command admitted the strike killed 80 people, of whom only 16 were suspected Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists. The army admitted killing four civilians, but insisted the other 60 were possibly terrorists, as “Islamic State women and children have sometimes taken up arms.”
Nevertheless, an investigation ensued, and according to a report completed last week, “No violations of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) or the Laws of War (LOW) occurred.” The report said the US commander on the ground acted to target Islamic State militants and tried to distinguish civilians from combatants.
Although the strike killed dozens of civilians, the report said the army “has taken steps to mitigate the damage.”
The New York Times initial report claimed that officers watching the strike through a drone camera were horrified and wondered if they had just witnessed a war crime. In addition, the site of the explosion was bulldozed and internal reports of the strike were “delayed, sanitized and classified”, the Times claimed.
However, the latest Pentagon report indicates that there was no “malicious or wrongful intent” behind the delays in reporting the incident, and that no evidence could be found to suggest that the military attempted to “concealing decisions or actions.”
The full text of the Department of Defense report, including a final tally of civilian casualties, remains confidential. Only a two-page summary has been made public.
Drone attack that killed children with impunity – Pentagon
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin endorsed the report on Tuesday, but in a memo to military commanders urged them to ensure that future reports are compiled more quickly. Austin, who oversaw a drone strike in Kabul last August that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, said “Protecting innocent civilians…is a strategic and moral imperative.
Austin also refused to punish members of the military for the Kabul strike after an Air Force report found no violation of the law.
You can share this story on social media: