Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) shares regular updates about the work of our global programs. Our US program, helmed by US Program Director, Daniel R. Mahanty, with support from Research & Advocacy Associate, Julie Snyder, works with US institutions to protect civilians trapped in conflict around the world. This weekly overview of the US Program is authored by CIVIC consultant, Lyndsey Martin.
US MILITARY OPERATIONS: IRAQ, SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN
In the New York Times, Ryan Goodman writes that there is a “fundamental flaw in the way the United States counts civilian casualties that surely deflates the total numbers.” When deciding just whether to open an investigation into a potential case of civilian casualties, the Pentagon currently uses a “more likely than not” standard, which Goodman argues will miss many cases in which civilians were killed. In a separate piece in Just Security, Goodman identifies the legal implications of such a high standard for investigating civilian casualties.
Fifteen civilians were killed in Coalition strikes in March 2018 – a 86 percent decrease from February’s estimates, according to Airwars’ monthly assessment. All of the civilian deaths were recorded in Syria, as Airwars has not claimed a civilian casualty event in Iraq since February 7. The number of weapons released by the Coalition also fell to 294 munitions across Iraq and Syria from 747 munitions dropped in February.
The Coalition carried out twenty-six strikes across Iraq and Syria between April 20 and 26.
In Afghanistan, the United States dropped more weapons during the first quarter of 2018 than it has during the same period in any of the last fifteen years. The US released 1,186 munitions in Afghanistan during the first three months of 2018, surpassing the 1,083 munitions released at the height of the war in 2011. Yet, there’s little indication the increase in airstrikes is helping to end the conflict.
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (April 26): In the month of March, CJTF-OIR carried over 524 open reports of possible civilian casualties from previous months and received one new report resulting from Coalition strikes (artillery or air) in support of partner force operations to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria. During this period, the Coalition completed the assessment of 49: 46 were assessed to be non-credible, none were assessed to be duplicates of previous reports, and three were assessed to be credible, resulting in 28 unintentional civilian deaths. To date, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 883 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve. A total of 476 reports are still open.
The Coalition conducted a total of 29,254 strikes between August 2014 and end of March 2018. During this period, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 2,135. The total number of credible reports of civilian casualties during this time period was 227.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Photos reveal that a US produced bomb was used to target a wedding in Yemen, where at least 33 died, including the bride. The US must stop its role in the destruction of Yemen. #YemenCantWait https://t.co/HZN09Mo09a pic.twitter.com/jG6L6ujkQx
— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) April 28, 2018
May 1: American Red Cross International Services – Far from the Media’s Spotlight: Global Humanitarian Crises Outside the Public Eye
May 1: New America – Iraq After ISIS: What to Do Now
May 7: Wilson Center – The Future of War and Challenges for Humanitarians
May 7: Center for Strategic and International Studies – The Impact of De-risking on Nonprofit Organizations and Their Beneficiaries in Conflict Areas
May 9: Brookings Institution – What’s Next for Yemen’s Tragic War?
May 10: Stimson Center & the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – Dealing in Defense: Examining Trends in Global Arms Sales and World Military Expenditures
May 18: Center for Strategic and International Studies – The Future of Force
May 22: Stimson Center & CIVIC – Taking Aim: A Closer Look at the Global Arms Trade
Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 738 – 1,569
Children Killed: 242 – 337
Total Killed: 7,497 – 10,858
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,788
Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,259
Coalition Strikes: 29,279
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 107,129
Senators Move to Block Turkish Arms Transfer: A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to prevent the transfer of 116 F-35 Lightning II fighters to Turkey. While this particular legislation intended to punish Turkey’s imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson, human rights advocates might be interested in any legislation to mitigate Turkey’s access to lethal weapons. Human Rights Watch released a report in late February describing three Turkish attacks on civilian encampments in January that resulted in the deaths of 26 civilians, among which 17 were children. These findings are concerning, and lawmakers should take it upon themselves to find policy avenues for incentivizing Turkish officials to consider civilian lives more seriously.
Legislation to prevent the sale of F-35s was also considered last July following violence against protesters by Turkish President Erdogan’s bodyguards during a White House Visit. The previous bill, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), was proposed as an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, but was unsuccessful. This new legislation may stand a better chance of success. The majority of its sponsors are Republicans, making it more likely to fare well than past bills introduced by the Democratic minority. Lawmakers may also feel more eager to act in protest to Mr. Brunson’s incarceration. Finally, the legislation spans both Turkey’s domestic human rights conditions and its application of force abroad, so a broad coalition of lawmakers can be built around this issue.
ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA:
Congress is out of session for the week of April 30th to May 4th.
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has increased the use of drones and special operations forces to conduct counterterrorism raids while decreasing transparency around those operations. Luke Hartig writes in Just Security that the administration has an opportunity to increase transparency over US counterterrorism operations when, on May 1, it is required to release a report providing the total number of counterterrorism strikes outside areas of active hostilities conducted in 2017 and assessments of the resulting combatant and civilian deaths.
Nineteen NGOs issued a joint statement urging European states to refrain from assisting in US drone strikes. The statement comes after Amnesty International issued a report last week saying European states that provide assistance to US drone operations could be responsible for assisting drone strikes in violation of international law.
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The State Department approved three potential arms sales this week:
- 12 AH-1Z attack helicopters to Bahrain for an estimated cost of $911.4 million
- 3,500 M1156 Precision Guided Kits to the Netherlands, worth an estimated $70 million
- Defense articles and services to support the Netherlands Royal Air Force F-16 Formal Training Unit, worth an estimated $110 million
Rachel Stohl writes in Just Security that while the Trump administration’s new policies on conventional arms transfer prioritize perceived economic gains, they risk undermining American values, as well as long-term foreign policy and security interests.
An airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen last week hit a wedding in Hajjah governorate, killing at least thirty-three people and wounding more than fifty others. The following day, local media published a photograph of weapon remnants from the strike. Analysis by Bellingcat found that the remains of the wing assembly shown in the photograph was an American-made GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb manufactured by Raytheon.
American guns sold to Mexico have been used by Mexican security forces that have reportedly committed gross human rights abuses or colluded with criminal groups, according to a report by The Intercept.
Read CIVIC’s new policy brief with the Center for Strategic and International Studies on civilian protection and security partnerships here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Just Security: Rachel Kleinfeld warns against the increasing politicization of American security institutions.
Time: Izumi Nakamitsu addresses our “global arms addiction” and asks whether massive military spending actually makes us safer. She writes that to truly enhance security, we should focus on education, healthcare, protecting the environment, and fighting poverty.