What next for civilian protection and the United States government?

By Daniel R. Mahanty, Senior Advisor, US program

It’s been a busy year for Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), and much of our attention has been on the United States government, now involved in military operations or targeted killings in at least seven countries, with the lurking possibility of more to come. Even as we respond to the events of each day, we also consider and offer solutions to larger questions raised by the current environment. In the coming year, CIVIC’s US program will be focused on seeking answers to the following questions in an effort to understand, and where possible, help to shape the future for civilians affected by US actions in war:

How “Sticky” is Civilian Harm Mitigation inside the Pentagon?

The initiative taken by Gens. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus in Afghanistan to reduce civilian casualties serves as the most compelling example of the benefits and feasibility of reducing harm to civilians caught in conflict. But while civilian casualty numbers decreased, McChrystal and Petraeus’s efforts were not universally popular within the military, owing both to commonly-held misperceptions and perhaps some valid concerns about the associated risks and tradeoffs involved.

Assuming that the US military does not abandon its commitment to abide by international humanitarian law, does it nonetheless see efforts to study and minimize harm as strategically beneficial and feasible in other operational environments? How real is the tradeoff between fighting “faster” and protecting civilians? Will the other services join the US Army in the development of a joint US military doctrine on the protection of civilians? Just how “sticky” is the idea and practices of civilian harm mitigation within the US military? And where should we look for the evidence that it “stuck”?

What lessons will be drawn from the campaign against ISIS?

The operating environment has presented significant challenges to protecting civilians. Much of the campaign has been waged from the air, making pre- and post-strike assessments and investigations challenging. When ground fighting has taken place, it’s been in densely populated cities like Mosul. Operations are conducted by a large coalition of militaries, each governed by their own rules and laws. And ISIS has employed ruthless tactics that increase the risk of harm to civilians. Will the US commit to systematically studying and learning from the causes of civilian harm, and can we expect innovations in how to reduce harm in the future?

How can battlefield investigations and the amends process improve?

In 16 years of war, what has the U.S. military learned about conducting battlefield assessments and investigations into civilian harm incidents, and how can a variety of challenges be overcome to provide appropriate remedy? How can CIVIC and our partners help to preserve and even promote greater transparency and accountability for the benefit of those harmed?

How can the US influence other countries and allies?

In nearly every country in the world, the United States is involved with some form of security assistance, such as training, joint exercises, equipping, and selling arms. How can the US government better integrate civilian protection ideas and practices throughout the broad array of security assistance programs?

Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp

US Week in Review - Aug 7, 2017

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As part of our expanded online presence and making our work more accessible, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) will be posting occasional updates to our various programs. Our US program is helmed by Senior Advisor, Daniel R. Mahanty. We hope you find it useful as a snapshot of our work around the world to protect civilians trapped in conflict.


Syria: An estimated 20,000 to 50,000 civilians remain in Raqqa. Conditions in the city are dire, as the availability of food is extremely limited, and there is no access to potable water or electricity. The World Health Organization said that the city’s main hospital and many other health facilities have closed due to airstrikes, and those that are still functioning face critical shortages of medicine, supplies, and equipment. Médecins Sans Frontières reported that many sick and wounded are trapped inside the city with limited chance of escaping. An estimated 200,000 civilians have fled Raqqa since April 1. The UN estimates that 40 percent of civilians remaining in Raqqa will flee in the coming weeks, yet leaving the city remains extremely difficult due to extensive mining, shelling, snipers, and airstrikes; the Islamic State also continues to arrest and torture those caught trying to escape. Aid agencies have reported that children are coming out of Raqqa traumatized – many have lost the ability to speak or have developed speech impediments; some girls remain afraid to leave the house without being fully covered, as required under the Islamic State; others wake up with nightmares. Children also remain vulnerable to recruitment by soldiers; the Islamic State routinely enlisted children to commit violent acts, yet there has also been  a ‘significant increase in child recruitment’ by the SDF in its Raqqa offensive.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 289 civilians, including 68 children, were killed in Coalition airstrikes on Raqqa during the month of July. The Coalition has carried out more than 1,200 airstrikes on the city since the Raqqa offensive began on June 6 and more than 2,500 since January.

The UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria called attention this week to the fate of 3,000 Yazidi women and girls being held by the Islamic State, some in Raqqa city; as the SDF and Coalition’s offensive on Raqqa intensifies, Islamic State fighters are trying to sell enslaved Yazidi women and girls before fleeing Syria.

SEE: CIVIC: Recommendations to the Anti-ISIS Coalition on Operations in Syria

Iraq: The humanitarian crisis in Mosul continues, with close to 840,000 civilians still displaced from the city. IDPs from Mosul have been deterred from returning by the lack of basic services and remaining insecurity in the city, notably the presence of homemade bombs and explosives laid “on an industrial scale” by the Islamic State. Mines and improvised explosive devices in houses, schools, mosques, and streets all pose a persistent threat in the city; extensive mining of villages and farmers’ fields also stretches beyond Mosul to the Kurdish autonomous region. The UN Mines Action Service has documented 1,700 people killed by such explosives since clearing operations began last October. Early estimates indicate that clearing explosive hazards in Mosul alone may take over a decade. In addition to the presence of explosives in the city, widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure will likely leave thousands displaced for some time. It is currently estimated that at least 32,000 homes have been completely destroyed in west Mosul, leaving 200,000 people homeless.

SEE: Uncertainty Looms for Civilians in Mosul

Iraqi forces have indicated a plan to launch a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, where between 1,500 and 2,000 Islamic State fighters remain. Army Col. Pat Work said that the Islamic State will likely use, on a much lesser scale, the same tactics there that it used in Mosul – deploying suicide vehicles, littering the city with IEDs, destroying critical infrastructure, and holding civilians as human shields. The city had a pre-conflict population of 200,000, though an estimated 10,000 to 40,000 civilians remain. The Islamic State has prevented people from escaping by shooting those attempting to flee, as it did in Mosul; those who are able to flee, primarily women, children, and the elderly, must take a meandering route to avoid detection by the Islamic State. The UNHCR reported that over 200 families arrived at displacement camps near Mosul last week, most of whom fled fighting in Tal Afar; a further influx of IDPs from the city is expected once the offensive begins. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said that the U.S.-led Coalition conducted multiple airstrikes in Tal Afar last week.

MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (August 4): In the month of June, CJTF-OIR carried over 180 open reports of possible civilian casualties from previous months and received 72 new reports resulting from Coalition strikes in support of partner force operations to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

To date, based on Coalition data between August 2014 and June 2017, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 1101. Airwars puts this figure at 4,734.

Tweet of the Week


Senate to Resume NDAA Debate in September: As debate in the Senate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act seems to draw to a temporary close, the National Defense Authorization Act has moved to the forefront of the Senate’s agenda, and progress on the bill is expected once recess ends in the beginning of September. Though the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sought to address the NDAA at the end of the July session, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked the attempt until debate occurred on his amendments to end indefinite detention and re-evaluate AUMF. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who had previously led the charge against debating NDAA until the healthcare debate was concluded, gave his permission for NDAA to advance. According to Schumer, SASC Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) “arrived at a bipartisan agreement on a list of amendments that can be agreed to, and we can finish this bill.”

State Department Notifies Congress of Tucano Jet Sale to Nigeria: At President Trump’s direction, the State Department notified Congress last Wednesday of its intention to proceed with the sale of twelve Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria, triggering a 30-day period for Congressional review. The sale was initiated under the Obama administration but was blocked following a Nigerian air strike on a refugee camp in Rann that killed over 230 civilians fleeing Boko Haram. While these aircraft host sophisticated targeting technology that may aid in the precision of strikes, it is unclear that procedures for vetting targets are improving, and John Campbell—a Nigeria specialist at the CFR—suggests to the Washington Post that Nigeria still has “a long way to go.” The Senate houses at least two staunch opponents of arms sales to Nigeria in Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who worked to block jet sales to Nigeria in June citing human rights concerns, and opponents of the State Department decision will likely look to these Senators for direction.

On the Congressional Agenda:

Congressional recess lasts from July 31st to September 4th; Congress will reconvene on Tuesday, September 5th.


Afghanistan: On July 31, a U.S. drone strike killed seven IS-K fighters in Kunar province. A U.S. spokesman reported to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that U.S. forces conducted 358 strikes in Afghanistan during the month of July. Most of the strikes were carried out under strategic effects targeting authorities, which since June 2016 has given the U.S. military greater authority to target the Taliban with air strikes and to accompany Afghan troops in the field.

Somalia: A U.S. airstrike killed a senior al-Shabaab leader, Ali Mohamed Hussein, near Tortoroow in southern Somalia on July 30. Somalia’s information ministry said he was part of an al-Shabaab network responsible for planning and executing several bombings and assassinations in Mogadishu.

Syria: The U.S.-led Coalition killed twelve Islamic State leaders involved in directing external operations, as well as bomb-making, directed at regional and Western targets.

Yemen: A possible U.S. drone strike killed at least five AQAP fighters in Marib province on July 31, though U.S. Central Command denied any strikes were conducted in Marib during the relevant time.

The Trump administration has launched a review of the 2015 export law that controls what unmanned aerial vehicles can be sold to allies in an effort to make it easier to export U.S.-manufactured systems. UAV manufacturers in the U.S. have for years argued that they are handicapped by the current restrictions, while other drone exporters are not.


Nigeria: The State Department approved the possible $593 million sale to Nigeria of twelve A-29 Super Tucano aircraft and weapons, despite concerns about human rights abuses by Nigerian forces. Implementation of the proposed sale will require special training on the law of armed conflict and human rights, as well as air-to-ground integration to minimize civilian harm in air operations.

Turkey: The Pentagon has raised concerns over a $2.5 billion deal for Russia to supply Turkey with four S-400 missile interceptor batteries, citing a concern over the interoperability of the equipment, as a majority of NATO forces are not trained on operating Russian-made heavy weapons, including the S-400.

Ukraine: The Pentagon and State Department have proposed a plan to the White House to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft weapons, and other arms.

Yemen: Human rights organizations issued a joint letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, calling for the leaders to make public to the fullest extent possible their agencies’ reviews into allegations that U.S.-allied forces of the UAE and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have committed serious abuses in Yemen, including arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, and unlawful prisoner transfers. The letter also calls for public disclosure of any actions that the U.S. has taken with respect to any UAE or Yemeni forces implicated in serious abuses.


The Trump Administration has further expanded President Obama’s use of lethal counterterrorism operations outside of active conflict zones. Under President Trump, there have been five times as many operations than under President Obama for a comparable number of days. JSOC, rather than the CIA, has been the lead executive authority for the expanded operations. President Trump will likely continue to use JSOC to achieve counterterrorism objectives, yet the overreliance on lethal force is exhausting American special forces and is insufficient to confront the root causes of terrorism.


August 8: USIP – Expanding the Role of Youth in Building Peace, Security; discussion of ideas and resources for strengthening the role of youth who are reducing violence, improving security, and opposing violent extremism in their countries.


Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 753 – 1,427
Children Killed: 262 – 324
Total Killed: 6,562 – 9,561
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 3,734

Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Minimum Civilians Killed: 4,734
Coalition Strikes: 24,324
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 89,144

The Hidden Harm: Acquired Disability During Conflict

By Will Pons, Policy Intern, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)

The stark reality of the challenges and threats faced by persons with disabilities during armed conflict has been laid bare in Iraq, Syria, the Central African Republic, Yemen, and South Sudan. Particularly for those with newly acquired disabilities, living in conflict means struggling to obtain not only necessary medical treatment, but also access to food, sanitation, and water. Despite the courage of their family, friends, neighbors, or even strangers, persons with disabilities face the unfortunate realities of starvation, abuse, targeted killings, and abandonment in conflict zones. Even if they are able to escape the fighting, persons with disabilities face barriers, stigma, and discrimination once they reach refugee and internally displaced person camps.

The considerable challenges facing persons with pre-existing disabilities during armed conflict have been well documented, and the international community has begun to acknowledge that more needs to be done to ensure their full protection. But these efforts also need to include the perspective of those individuals who have acquired disabilities due to the conflict and are navigating new environmental and societal barriers.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 15.3 percent of the world’s population is living with some form of disability. However, the overall rate of disability can jump to 18-20 percent or higher in conflict-affected populations because of “new injuries, a lack of quality medical care, or collapse of essential services.” These newly acquired disabilities range from long-term physical, sensory, psychosocial, and intellectual impairments to short-term and transient disabilities.

Individuals with newly acquired disabilities struggle with the same challenges as persons are already living with disabilities, but without their prior knowledge or experience. In many cultures and societies, persons with disabilities are often seen as either needing charity or are simply “invisible.” Social, attitudinal, informational, and physical barriers are reinforced by the stigma and discrimination surrounding disability, which ultimately reduce the ability of persons with disabilities to develop resilience mechanisms. For persons who acquire a disability during conflict, however, these barriers can be even more acute as they struggle with failing infrastructure, health services, and access to food and medicine.

To better accommodate the unique challenges facing persons with disabilities in conflict and specifically those with newly acquired disabilities before, during, and after conflict, governments and humanitarian organizations should focus on three main initiatives:

  • First, take an inclusive approach to emergency response and planning that considers the specific challenges and dangers affecting persons with disabilities during armed conflict by including disabled persons organizations.
  • Second, disaggregate population data to break down disability by age, gender, type of disability, and cause of disability, as well as by information about family and support networks to better inform humanitarian and emergency responses.
  • Third, eliminate social, attitudinal, informational, and physical barriers—including stigma and discrimination—by using a human rights based approach and by ensuring adherence to the customary international humanitarian principle of adverse distinction and the international human rights principle of non-discrimination.

Disability regularly intersects with other vulnerabilities in conflict like gender and age to place persons with disabilities at significantly greater risk of harm compared to other civilians. Given that persons with disabilities are “invisible” in peacetime, it is therefore essential to ensure their inclusion in civilian protection processes and incumbent on governments and humanitarian organizations to recognize and address their needs during conflict.

Image courtesy Getty Images/Chris Hondros

US Weekly Update - July 30, 2017

As part of our expanded online presence and making our work more accessible, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) will be posting occasional updates to our various programs. Our US program is helmed by Senior Advisor, Daniel R. Mahanty. We hope you find it useful as a snapshot of our work around the world to protect civilians trapped in conflict.


Syria: Assistant Secretary General for the UN Security Council, Ursula Mueller, said that the situation for 20,000 to 50,000 remaining civilians in Raqqa is perilous, as there is no way for them to escape the city due to the presence of mines and unexploded ordnance, shelling, snipers, and airstrikes. Access to food, markets, water, and health services and facilities is extremely limited. Mueller reported that 200,000 civilians have fled Raqqa since April 1, including more than 30,000 this month. She warned that conditions for civilians displaced within Raqqa province are dire as well with temperatures reaching over 122 degrees farenheit, and concerns over their freedom of movement outside of displacement camps persist. SDF forces now control close to half of Raqqa city, though their advance has slowed due to the massive amounts of explosives laid by and increased suicide attacks from the Islamic State, as well as its continued use of civilians as human shields. Since the offensive in Raqqa began on June 6, the Coalition’s already heavy aerial bombardment has intensified. Airwars has tracked at least 140 civilian deaths resulting from Coalition airstrikes in the first three weeks of July, in addition to at least 340 civilians killed in airstrikes in June; the chief Syria researcher at Airwars, Kinda Haddad, said that there have been many incidents of entire families being killed in air and artillery strikes. The U.S.-led Coalition’s campaign in Raqqa “looks a lot less like a battle against the Islamic State and a lot more like a war on civilians."

A report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights detailing incidents in Raqqa governorate from November 2016, when the Raqqa campaign began, to late June 2017, found that Coalition forces and the SDF have not distinguished between civilians and fighters in many of their attacks and have not considered the principle of proportionality in the use of force. The report documented 731 civilians killed by the Coalition and 90 attacks on vital civilian facilities for which the Coalition is responsible. The SNHR called on the Coalition to acknowledge that some of its operations resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians; rather than denying the allegations, states should launch serious investigations and apologize to and compensate the victims.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an escalation of Coalition airstrikes on Deir Ezzor province resulted in the deaths of 59 civilians in al-Mayadeen city, 61 civilians in other areas of the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, and 154 family members of Islamic State fighters, including 68 children, from May 22 to July 22. An airstrike on an Islamic State prison holding both civilians and prisoners of IS also resulted in 42 deaths.

SEE: CIVIC: Recommendations to the Anti-ISIS Coalition on Operations in Syria

Iraq: After nine months of urban warfare, Mosul is experiencing a “humanitarian crisis of monumental scale.” The UNHCR reported that although the number of people fleeing western Mosul has significantly decreased, an estimated 450 individuals arrived daily at camps east of Mosul last week; since the Mosul offensive began in October, an estimated 940,000 civilians fled Mosul, close to 840,000 of whom remain displaced. The majority of returnees are residents of east Mosul as the damage to civilian infrastructure there is less severe than in the west, where the destruction is “incomparable to anything else that has happened in Iraq so far.” Throughout the nine-month battle, thousands of children were separated from their parents; aid agencies estimate that more than 3,000 children are now separated from their parents, while over 800 are unaccompanied – without care or guardians. Many children were forced to fight or carry out violent acts during and were vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

 The security situation in the city remains volatile. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis reported that Iraqi forces now control all parts of Mosul, though continue to conduct detailed clearance operations in the Old City, searching for remaining Islamic State fighters and identifying explosive devices. Homemade bombs and explosives laid “on an industrial scale” by the Islamic State are causing hundreds of deaths and hampering stabilization efforts as individuals return to Mosul and other liberated areas of northern Iraq. Booby-trapped houses, schools, mosques, and streets all pose a major threat in west Mosul; extensive mining of villages and fields also stretches beyond Mosul to the Kurdish autonomous region. The UN Mines Action Service has documented 1,700 people killed by such explosives since clearing operations began last October. Charge d’affairs at the EU mission in Iraq, Charles Stuart, said the Islamic State’s targeting of civilians aims to hinder stabilization efforts to return people to their homes, rebuild infrastructure, and reinstate government rule; because the Islamic State’s strategy extends beyond military operations, exploiting the crisis in Mosul could allow it to thrive again.

Yazidi women who have been freed after three years of captivity and serial rape by Islamic State fighters in Mosul are “in severe shock and psychological upset.” The women are showing “extraordinary signs of psychological injury” and have been described as “very tired,” “unconscious,” and unable to wake up, sleeping for days on end. Since the Mosul operation began last October, an estimated 180 Yazidi women and girls, captured in 2014, have been freed.

SEE: Uncertainty Looms for Civilians in Mosul

MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (July 7): In the month of May, CJTF-OIR carried over 38 open reports of possible civilian casualties from previous months and received 61 new reports resulting from Coalition strikes in support of partner force operations to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.


Defense Budget Bill Passes in House: The House approved the $789.6 billion Department of Defense Appropriations Act on Thursday, voting largely along partisan lines to pass the bill 235-192. This level of funding significantly exceeds the $549 defense budget cap set by the 2011 sequestration, and the Republican lawmakers that passed it will have to choose between repealing budget caps and trimming the budget, though some funds can be shifted into the unlimited Overseas Contingency Operations fund.

The bill now must go before the Senate, where its chances for survival are slim; repealing budget caps would require 60 votes in the Senate, and the Democratic minority seems far from relenting. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) solidified the Democratic opposition to the bill with a statement: “To my Republican friends in the Senate, I’d say persuade your colleagues in the House to abandon this dangerous, irresponsible path they’ve put us on, which can only lead to a government shutdown.”

Before the bill’s passage in the House, several key amendments were considered. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) attempted to attach amendments repealing the 2001 AUMF and prohibiting any related funding; neither of these were considered by the Rules committee. Rep. Davidson (R-OH) introduced an amendment that would prohibit funds for military action in Yemen, which was rejected after debate. Davidson successfully passed a similar amendment to the House NDAA earlier this month.

NDAA Hits Gridlock in Senate: Following a brief hospitalization and brain cancer diagnosis, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has returned to the Senate and is urging his colleagues to move forward on NDAA. However, like the Defense budget bill, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is promising to block the NDAA until the Republicans abandon their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act through budget reconciliation, a process that reduced the number of votes needed from 60 to 51 (or 50 with the Vice President’s tie-breaking vote). The reconciliation process requires that the Senate reach unanimous consent before moving onto any bill while still debating healthcare; it “has prevented us from debating, from having hearings, from having some kind of bipartisan input,” says Schumer. The House version of the bill contains several crucial amendments targeting civilian rights abuses in Nigeria and Yemen and improved reporting on U.S.-caused civilian casualties, none of which can progress until the political turmoil in the Senate subsides.

On the Congressional Agenda:

Wednesday, August 2 – 2:00pm – Senate Foreign Relations Committee – The Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Administration Perspective [Closed to Public]


Afghanistan: On July 23, residents of Haska Mena district in Nangarhar province reported that a U.S. strike hit a funeral ceremony, killing eight civilians. Local officials said that IS-K fighters had been firing from civilian homes close to the site of the ceremony. The governor’s spokesman said that joint air and ground operations were carried out in various areas of Haska Mena district, but forces came under fire in Mianji Baba, the alleged site of the strike. Twenty-five IS-K members, including three leaders, were killed and four civilian homes were reportedly hit during the operation. The U.S. military said that it was aware of the allegations and that an investigation is underway, confirming that U.S. forces had conducted strikes in the general area during the relevant time period. On July 26, several possible U.S. airstrikes killed at least eight IS-K fighters in Nangarhar province. A joint U.S. and Afghan military operation on July 27 in Paktika province killed two leaders of the al-Qaeda linked Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and led to the capture of a third leader. On July 28, a possible U.S. airstrike hit an IS-K “hideout” in Nangarhar province, reportedly killing eight IS-K fighters.

Operation Inherent Resolve: The Coalition reported the deaths of seven senior Islamic State propagandists and facilitators in Iraq and Syria.


Cameroon: After Amnesty International released a report last week documenting the torture of suspected Boko Haram fighters at a Cameroonian base used by American troops and private contractors, U.S. Africa Command has launched an investigation to determine if U.S. personnel were aware that torture was taking place at the base.

Iraq: Human Rights Watch reported that a U.S.-trained Iraqi army division executed several dozen prisoners in Mosul’s Old City. It called for the U.S. to suspend all assistance and support for the Iraqi 16th Division pending a full investigation and appropriate prosecutions by the Iraqi government, citing the Leahy Law, which prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to any unit of foreign security forces if there is credible evidence that the unit has committed gross violations of human rights and no effective measures are being taken to bring those responsible to justice.

Philippines: On Thursday, the U.S. transferred two single-engine surveillance planes to the Philippines as part of its $425 million Maritime Security Initiative to help Southeast Asian countries address regional security challenges, including Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. The planes will boost the Philippines’ ability to patrol its seas, as well as fight pro-Islamic State militants on the southern island of Mindanao.

Romania: Romanian Defense Minister Adrian Tutuianu confirmed the $3.9 billion deal to purchase Patriot missiles from the United States. The State Department approved the sale earlier this month, though Romania’s Parliament still needs to pass a law allowing the acquisition.


Despite the reliance on drone strikes in U.S. counterterrorism policy, there is relatively little known about the political effects of this tactic. Jacqueline Hazelton finds that drone strikes have little ability to assure U.S. security at home and abroad in the context of two potential grand strategies; while drone strikes may produce short-term benefits, they do not create significant popular or state support for U.S. interests or do serious political damage to U.S. adversaries.

CBS Radio Interview with CIVIC’s Executive Director

Last weekend, CBS Radio aired an interview with Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) Executive Director Federico Borello, in which he described our work and what you can do to help. It’s a good listen!

Uncertainty Looms for Civilians in Mosul

By Saman Omar, Program Officer in Iraq

Three years after surrendering it to the Islamic State (ISIS), Iraqi Security Forces have reclaimed Mosul. But wresting the city from ISIS came at a high cost to civilians there. Airwars reports 3,800 civilian deaths from airstrikes alone. The city lies in ruins. Yet, gaining control over Mosul is only the first step in taking on the challenge of post-ISIS stabilization.

It is very likely that a new phase of conflict awaits Iraq. Recent attacks show ISIS is altering its tactics from major offensives to sniper and sectarian attacks. Militants are increasing the number of suicide attacks. These assaults are now often carried out by female bombers who are able to hide amongst civilians and target soldiers. A suicide bomber dressed in a women's robe killed 14 civilians at a displaced persons camp in al-Wafa on July 2.

Despite the liberation of several West Mosul neighborhoods in February by the ISF, ISIS fighters were able to infiltrate the Hamam al-Alil sub-district several times. On one occasion an IED detonation caused civilian casualties in the IDP camp there. On July 5, ISIS fighters captured Imam Gharbi village south of Qayyarah sub-district, after killing some tribesmen. Similar attacks occurred in neighborhoods in recently-reclaimed East Mosul, spreading fear and insecurity across liberated areas.

In CIVIC interviews, Mosul's displaced civilians recounted threats from ISIS militants who stated they “will still be around even if they lose the battle” and “will do their best to apply the rule of Islamic Sharia” in Mosul. Many women seemed afraid to take off their niqabs (face covering) out of fear of punishment by ISIS supporters in IDP camps.

ISIS affiliates in Mosul and IDP camps managed to pass through Iraqi screening centers. The near daily arrests of ISIS members by the ISF demonstrate this. These ISIS sleeper cells remain a major concern for civilians and security forces in Mosul, because of three years of ISIS indoctrination of many disillusioned youth.

The government lacks a proper vision and clear strategy about how to operate the recaptured city, which worsens security concerns. Mosul's Sunni majority remains suspicious of leadership in Baghdad and the Shi’ite popular mobilization units, al-Hashd al-Shaabi. The temporary need to expel ISIS united Iraqis. The government must not allow old regional, ethnic, and sectarian disputes to resurface.

Politicians fear for the future of Mosul. On July 6, Masoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, said he was concerned that policies of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, which favored Shi’ites at the expense of the region’s Sunni majority and which had allowed ISIS to gain a foothold, had not changed. “I have a big concern about the future of the area,” he said. “I hope I will be wrong.”

The creation of a comprehensive rehabilitation, reconstruction, and reconciliation process will help ensure safety for Mosul's civilians. The international community must support Iraq in these efforts.

(Photo credit CIVIC/Maranie Rae Staab)