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, 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 AND COALITION OPERATIONS
OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE
There’s a humanitarian crisis at the al Hol camp in northeastern Syria, as aid agencies and local authorities off were caught off guard by the more than 73,000 people who fled intense fighting in Baghouz.
The Washington Post reports: “Amid a sea of white tents, thousands sleep in communal spaces, and children defecate outside. The war wounded are often left untreated. Thousands more are malnourished. There are just three mobile clinics at the camp, and local hospitals are swollen with patients critically wounded in the war. Those with non-life-threatening injuries often are given painkillers or antibiotics and sent on their way.
Last week, 31 people died on the way to the camp or shortly after arriving because of traumatic injuries and malnutrition, according to the International Rescue Committee, bringing the total number of such deaths to 217.”
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (March 29): In the month of February, CJTF-OIR carried over 141 open reports from previous months and received six new reports. CJTF-OIR completed one civilian-casualty allegation assessment report. CJTF-OIR determined the report to be credible. One hundred and forty six reports are still open including five, which were previously closed, but the CIVCAS cell reopened them due to new information.
The Coalition conducted 34,038 strikes between August 2014 and end of February 2019. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1257 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
This morning @USAfricaCommand's director of operations, MajGen Gregg Olson, did a call with reporters explaining how AFRICOM learned it killed a woman and child in a 2018 drone strike. These are the first civilians AFRICOM has admitted its strikes have killed in Somalia.
— Wesley Morgan (@wesleysmorgan) April 5, 2019
Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 769 – 1,725
Children Killed: 253 – 397
Total Killed: 8,459 – 12,105
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 6,786
Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Civilians Killed: 7,595 – 12,276
Children Killed: 1,597 – 2,169
Coalition Strikes in Iraq: 14,508
Coalition Strikes in Syria: 19,756
The New York Times documented 10 civilian deaths in Afghanistan between March 28 and April 4.
A report by The Economist describes the disputed civilian death toll from US operations in Somalia, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. The uncertainty may stem from America’s reliance on local forces on the ground, which limits the military to overhead imagery for evaluating casualties, or on the US military’s inclination to underestimate figures.
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The State Department approved the sale of 24 MH-60R multi-mission helicopters to India this week, for an estimated cost of $2.6 billion.
The Pentagon is suspending the delivery of F-35 fighter aircraft equipment to Turkey over its “unacceptable” plans to purchase a Russian antiaircraft system despite repeated US objections.
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
After denying allegations last month that the US military has caused civilian casualties in Somalia, US Africa Command said on Friday that an airstrike in April 2018 resulted in two civilian deaths.
The announcement comes after a report by Amnesty International found that at least five US airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties in Somalia, prompting Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africom, to order a review of all airstrikes conducted in Somalia since 2017.
The airstrike wasn’t one of the five cited by Amnesty. Africom said it found “credible evidence” of the civilian casualties after the strike but they were not reported to senior officials until last week due to a reporting error.
US Central Command has conducted eight counterterrorism strikes in Yemen against AQAP so far in 2019.
Last month, Gen. Charles Dunlap wrote in Just Security in support of the Trump administration’s executive order rescinding the requirement of releasing the number of civilians and combatants killed in US operations outside areas of active hostilities, comparing it to the practice of using body counts as a metric of success in Vietnam. CIVIC’s Dan Mahanty and Alex Moorehead, of Columbia Law School, respond to Dunlap’s essay, arguing in favor of greater transparency and explaining the relevance of civilian casualty figures for civilian harm mitigation.
On Thursday, the House voted to force an end to US military involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, denouncing the bombing campaign as worsening the humanitarian crisis. The resolution, which was passed by the Senate in March, now goes to President Trump, who is expected to veto it.
While the vote marks an important rebuke to President Trump, it is unclear what impact the passing of the resolution will have on the situation in Yemen.
The resolution raises the question of when the United States is at war, Missy Ryan writes in the Washington Post. The measure, which references invokes the War Powers Resolution, says that the US has “been introduced into hostilities” in Yemen by providing targeting assistance, intelligence sharing, and mid-air refueling. However, the Trump administration has argued that the United States plays only a supporting role in the conflict, so the US cannot be constrained by the War Powers Resolution.
ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA
- Tuesday, April 9 – 9:30am – House Foreign Affairs Committee – FY 2020 Foreign Assistance Budget Policy Priorities
- Tuesday, April 9 – 2:30pm – Senate Armed Services Committee – CLOSED: United States Special Operations Command’s Efforts to Transform the Force for Future Security Challenges and Implement the National Defense Strategy
- Wednesday, April 10 – 9:15am – Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Review of the FY 2020 State Department Budget Request
- Wednesday, April 10 – 9:30am – House Foreign Affairs Committee – The importance of U.S. Assistance to Central America
- Wednesday, April 10 – 10:00am – House Armed Services Committee – The FY20 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for the Department of Navy
- April 8: Center for Strategic and International Studies – Iraqi Public Opinion 16 Years After the Invasion
- April 9: US Institute of Peace – A Conversation with Central African Republic President Touadéra: Prospects for Peace in the Central African Republic
- April 10: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace – Democracy Under Assault: How American Foreign Policy Can Rise to the Challenge
- May 6: Stimson Center – Growth in Global Arms Transfers and Military Spending