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 US Program Director, Daniel R. Mahanty. We hope you find it useful as a snapshot of our work around the world to protect civilians trapped in conflict.
OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (November 30): In the month of October, CJTF-OIR carried over 519 open reports of possible civilian casualties from previous months and received 240 new reports resulting from Coalition strikes (artillery or air) in support of partner force operations to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. During this period, the Coalition completed the assessment of 64 reports: 55 were assessed to be non-credible, four were assessed to be duplicates of previous reports, and five were assessed to be credible, resulting in 15 unintentional civilian deaths. To date, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 801 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve. A total of 695 reports are still open.
The Coalition conducted a total of 28,198 strikes that included 56,976 separate engagements between August 2014 and October 2017. During this period, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 1,790. The total number of credible reports of civilian casualties during this time period was 199. The percent of engagements that resulted in a report of possible civilian casualties was 3.14%. The percent of engagements that resulted in a credible report of civilian casualties was .35%.
Congress Negotiates over Defense Budget Caps: The US government budget is expected to run out on December 8th, but Republican lawmakers are refusing to pass a FY18 budget bill until defense spending caps are revoked. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) spoke at the Reagan National Defense Forum about his party’s opposition to these caps: “You should fund your military with what you need to accomplish to protect you from the threats; that’s what you should decide the number upon, and that’s the argument of where we’re going.” Spending proposals by the Republican-led Congress have called for appropriations in the tens of billions higher than is authorized by sequestration rules passed by President Obama; lawmakers are now expected to pass a two-week continuing resolution to prevent government shutdown while they seek to undo those caps. However, the move for a continuing resolution drew fire from members on both sides of the aisle. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned his colleagues, saying that “playing around with the possibility of sequester and shutting down the government is no good for our armed services as well as for the rest of the country.” Republican budget hawks like Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) also objected to the use of continuing resolutions: “Until you hold Congress’s feet to the fire, you’re going to have to watch our [military] capabilities further degrade.” President Trump’s efforts to massively increase military spending will live or die by how Congress navigates these budget caps, and those with concerns about how these appropriations will be used overseas should watch upcoming proceedings closely.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
U.S. drone strikes in non-battlefield states (Yemen, Pak, Somalia):
Under Bush, in 7 years: 50
Under Obama, in 8 years: 540
Under Trump, in 10 months: ~135 (and growing)
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) November 30, 2017
December 4: Atlantic Council – Rebuilding Syria: A Localized Revitalization Strategy
December 5: USIP – Turmoil Across the Middle East: What Does It Mean?
December 5: CFR – Women’s Contributions to Conflict Prevention and Resolution
December 5: Carnegie Endowment – Pakistan’s Ambassador on the United States’ South Asia Strategy
December 6: USIP – UN Peacekeeping Is Vital – and So Is its Reform
December 7: CSIS – Finding Consensus for a New Authorization for the Use of Military Force
December 12: Brookings Institution – Revisiting Lessons of the Vietnam War
December 12: CFR – Yemen: A Country in Crisis
December 19: Atlantic Council – Making Peace in Donbas? The Role of a Peacekeeping Mission
Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 753 – 1,551
Children Killed: 242 – 330
Total Killed: 7,128 – 10,432
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,684
Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Minimum Civilians Killed: 5,961
Coalition Strikes: 28,458
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 103,724
ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA:
- Wednesday, December 6 – 2:30 pm – Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Beyond ISIS: Countering Terrorism, Radicalization, and Promoting Stability in North Africa
- Thursday, December 7 – 9:30 am – House Foreign Affairs Committee – Counterterrorism Efforts in Africa
- Thursday, December 7 – 10:00 am – Senate Armed Services Committee – Department of Defense Acquisition Reform Efforts
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
Afghanistan: A US spokesperson confirmed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that sixteen strikes were carried out in Helmand between November 19 and 21. The regional military corps commander, General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, said that the strikes focused on a narcotics market run by the Taliban in Bahramcha district. A possible US strike on November 25 killed at least fourteen IS-K militants in Nangarhar province, including two senior leaders. A US drone strike on November 27 targeted an IS-K hideout in Nangarhar’s Haska Mina district, killing seven militants and destroying a weapons cache. On November 29, a US strike killed eight militants in Nangarhar’s Achin district, though it is unclear to which group the fighters belonged.
Niger: The Nigerien government granted the US military approval to fly armed drones out of the capital city of Niamey, in a major expansion of the US military’s role in the region. The new mission will significantly increase the number of US troops in Niger and will allow the US military to target fighters affiliated with AQIM, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State.
Pakistan: On November 30, a US drone strike targeted a Haqqani network compound near the Afghan border, killing at least three militants. Pakistani intelligence officials said that the strike hit in Pakistan’s Kurram Agency, though a spokesman for the governor of Afghanistan’s Paktia province said the strike hit on the Afghan side of the border.
Somalia: A US strike on November 27 in northeastern Somalia killed one Islamic State militant.
On Wednesday, US Africa Command said it found no evidence of civilian casualties resulting from the joint-US and Somali operation near Bariire on August 25.
Meanwhile, an investigation by the Daily Beast found that the operation resulted in the deaths of ten civilians. It suggests that US Special Operations Forces fired directly on unarmed civilians, used untrustworthy human intelligence sources, and failed to take into account clan dynamics. The Daily Beast interviewed survivors of the raid over the phone and met with Somali officials in person, though did not travel to the site.
Yemen: Between November 19 and November 30, the US carried out several strikes in Bayda province, targeting both AQAP and Islamic State militants. A US strike on November 19 killed two AQAP militants. On November 20, five AQAP fighters were killed in a US strike in the Yakla area of Bayda. A US strike on November 23 targeted Islamic State militants in the province, killing two. On November 25, a US drone strike targeted three vehicles traveling from Shabwah province to Bayda province, killing seven AQAP militants. A US strike on November 26 killed three militants – Centcom said the fighters were members of the Islamic State, though local sources said they had known ties to al-Qaeda. On November 30, “likely” American drone strikes in the Sarar al Jashm area in northwestern Bayda killed three Islamic State militants. Local sources said that seven civilians were also killed in the strikes.
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The US sold nearly $42 billion worth of weapons abroad in fiscal year 2017 – close to a 20 percent increase over 2016.
The US military will indefinitely postpone a ban on older cluster munitions, reversing a 2008 policy that mandated the military sharply restrict their use and develop safer munitions. Cluster munitions have been banned by 102 countries due to the risk of civilian casualties.
Poland: The State Department approved the possible foreign military sale to Poland of 150 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, worth an estimated $250 million. Separately, State approved the possible $250 million sale to Poland of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
Singapore: The State Department approved the potential foreign military sale to Singapore of forty GBU-10 Paveway II and eighty-four GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bombs, worth an estimated $415 million.
WHAT WE’RE READING:
Lawfare: Curtis Bradley and Jack Goldsmith discuss their forthcoming paper for the Harvard Law Review on how extensively the president has come to dominate international law – and whether or not Congress cares. Bradley and Goldsmith write that the president’s assumption of control over international law is in line with a more general trend of an increasingly powerful executive: “As the United States grew in power over two centuries, and as the world became more complex and dangerous, Congress delegated increasing authority over international law for the United States. In addition, presidents, faced with the responsibility to conduct US foreign policy, interpreted Article II to allow them to assume even more control over international law, and Congress largely acquiesced.” They question whether presidential control of international law is legitimate and conclude that Congress must demand greater transparency about executive branch actions related to international law.