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, YEMEN

AFGHANISTAN

The city of Ghazni is still too dangerous for aid workers and civilians to reach after a week of fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces that resulted in between 200 and 250 civilian casualties. OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said there is still no safe way for civilians or humanitarian workers to enter the city due to the presence of mines and improvised explosive devices. Continued clashes between Taliban and government forces on the outskirts of Ghazni have forced some civilians to flee from their homes.

In a press briefing this week, Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said there is “an unprecedented opportunity, a window of opportunity for peace right now” nearly a year after President Trump announced his South Asia strategy. Yet the US appears to be no closer to winning the war and stabilizing the country, as the Taliban still control much of the country and the civilian death toll has reached a record high.

OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE

Last month, the US-led Coalition acknowledged that its assault on Raqqa killed at least 77 civilians following an extensive investigation by Amnesty International. Daphne Eviatar writes in Just Security that while the Coalition’s admission of responsibility is an important step forward, it must provide compensation to victims’ families and survivors and initiate investigations to uncover the full scale of civilian deaths.

Coalition forces carried out 15 strikes in Iraq and Syria between August 13 and 19.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

STATISTICS

Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)

Civilians Killed: 751 – 1,555

Children Killed: 252 – 345

Total Killed: 7,715 – 11,067

Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,926

Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)

Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,488

Coalition Strikes: 29,857

Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 108, 107

MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (July 26): In the month of June, CJTF-OIR carried over 314 open reports from previous months and received 45 new reports. The assessment of 125 civilian casualty reports have been completed. Sixteen reports were determined to be credible, resulting in 105 unintentional civilian deaths, while three were assessed to be duplicate and 106 were assessed to be non-credible. A total of 234 reports are still open. The Coalition conducted a total of 29,826 strikes between August 2014 and end of June 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1059 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.

YEMEN

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike on Thursday killed at least 22 children as they were fleeing the al-Durayhimi district, south of Hodeidah, while a separate airstrike on the same day killed four children, the UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said on Friday. The attack comes just weeks after a coalition airstrike struck a school bus in Saada, killing 44 children.

A report by Human Rights Watch released last week finds a “general failing” by the Saudi-led Joint Incident Assessment Team to credibly investigate civilian casualties and provide redress to victims. The vast majority of JIAT’s investigations absolve the coalition of legal responsibility, claiming that the coalition did not carry out the reported attack or made an “unintentional” mistake. JIAT recommended that disciplinary action be taken in only two of 75 public reports.

The report also says JIAT often deemed an airstrike lawful simply because “the coalition had identified a legitimate military target – but did not appear to consider whether the attack was lawfully proportionate or if precautions taken were adequate.”

The report calls on the United States to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said, “Governments selling arms to Saudi Arabia should recognize that the coalition’s sham investigations do not protect them from being complicit in serious violations in Yemen.”

CONGRESS

Senate Passes Defense Appropriations Bill

The Senate voted 85-7 on Thursday to pass a $675 billion spending bill for the Department of Defense, including nearly $70 billion to the overseas contingency operations fund. With the House having already passed their version of the legislation, Congress has made much faster progress on setting defense appropriations than in recent years. This gives lawmakers ample time to navigate and negotiate the differences between the two drafts, reducing the likelihood that the defense budget will be a centerpiece in future fights over the debt ceiling and government shutdown threats. Work to form a conference draft of the bill will begin when the House returns from their recess following Labor Day.

On the Congressional Agenda:

DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLING

American officials are confident that al Qaeda’s chief bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri has been killed in a US drone strike in Yemen.

The leader of the Islamic State in Afghanistan was killed in a joint operation with Afghan and US forces in Khugyani district near the border with Pakistan, along with ten others.

An American drone base in Niger will cost more than $280 million by 2024, when the 10-year agreement for use of base in Agadez ends according to new Air Force projections.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Tanisha Fazal and Sarah Kreps write in Foreign Affairs about the American public’s indifference to the war in Afghanistan: “without being confronted with the grim realities of war, the public is unlikely to exercise the levers of accountability that it did in the past by voicing opposition and pressuring leaders to bring a close to the war.”

Image courtesy of US DOD Photo
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