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

Coalition strikes continue in Iraq and Syria, with 41 strikes carried out in between January 26 and February 1. In its civilian casualty report for January 2018, the Syrian Network for Human Rights documented 774 civilian deaths, 24 of which it attributed to the Coalition.

MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (January 25): In the month of December, CJTF-OIR carried over 603 open reports of possible civilian casualties from previous months and received 21 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 218 reports: 207 were assessed to be non-credible, five were assessed to be duplicates of previous reports, and six were assessed to be credible, resulting in 13 unintentional civilian deaths. To date, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 831 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve. A total of 406 reports are still open. The Coalition conducted a total of 28,783 strikes between August 2014 and December 2017. During this period, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 1,820. The total number of credible reports of civilian casualties during this time period was 220.

CONGRESS

Trump Calls for Defense Spending in SOTU: President Trump invoked the threat of “rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia” in the State of the Union address as he called on Congress to rally around his proposed defense hike. Though he spoke largely of a potential increase of the American arsenal of nuclear weapons, the President’s proposal would largely prioritize increases in more conventional tools of war such as ships, planes, and training for Marines. It is not clear, however, that obstacles to a defense budget are being controlled by the White House. President Trump has been vocal about the lack of progress on a solution for DACA recipients or broader immigration policy, and the release of a memo alleging FBI misconduct by House Republicans has thrown Washington into turmoil. As the government faces shutdown once again on February 8th, it is unclear that legislators are any more prepared to negotiate over such fraught issues as parity for non-defense budget caps, protections for DREAMers, and President Trump’s proposed border wall.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

UPCOMING EVENTS

February 5: CSIS – Stabilizing Raqqa: Connecting Current Operations to US Policy Objectives

February 5: CFR – US Counterterrorism Strategy: Next Steps for the State Department

February 6: Wilson Center – The Role of Water Stress in Instability and Conflict

February 8: Atlantic Council – War Powers and Military Force

February 12: CSIS – Oversight and Accountability in US Security Sector Assistance: Seeking Return on Investment

February 12: USIP – US-Pakistan Relations at a Turning Point: What’s Next?

February 13: CSIS – Managing Fragility for Peace, Security, and Development

February 14: CSIS – Boko Haram: A History

February 20: CSIS – Rethinking Civil Society Sustainability

STATISTICS

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

Civilians Killed: 737 – 1,551

Children Killed: 242 – 330

Total Killed: 7,275 – 10,586

Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,721

Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)

Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,047

Coalition Strikes: 28,922

Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 105,308

 

ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA:

DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS

Afghanistan: A US strike targeting a Taliban meeting in Ghazni province’s Andar district killed twenty-six fighters and injured an additional twenty.

Yemen: On January 27, AFP reported a possible US drone strike in Shabwa province that targeted a car, killing seven AQAP militants. Central Command denied carrying out a strike on that day, but said that US forces have conducted 10 strikes in Yemen thus far in 2018.

US airstrikes in Yemen increased sixfold in 2017 compared to the year before with 131 strikes, compared to 21 strikes in 2016. Strikes primarily targeted AQAP, though in October US counterterrorism operations expanded to include strikes against the Islamic State’s branch in Yemen. In addition to increased airstrikes, the Pentagon now also acknowledges a small US presence inside Yemen, though it has not offered specific troop numbers.

SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES

Afghanistan: On Monday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said that the Department of Defense blocked the release of a range of data on US progress in Afghanistan, including the number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government, the size of the Afghan army and police, details about Afghan troops’ casualties and attrition, and the number of civilian casualties. Inspector General John Sopko said the order is distressing because “the number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress…and for the American public of how the 16-year-lnog effort to secure Afghanistan is faring.” The classification of data comes amid a major expansion of US air power in the country and as American casualties have steadily increased. On Tuesday, a spokesman from Resolute Support said that a “human error in labeling” caused the data to be classified.

South Sudan: The State Department announced on Friday that it has banned the export of weapons and defense services to South Sudan due to continued violence between the government and armed opposition, despite the December 21 Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities. The decision is seen as more symbolic than practical, as the US government doesn’t sell arms or provide defense services to the country, though the US is also seeking support through the Security Council to impose an international arms embargo on South Sudan.

At Defense One, Dan Mahanty, CIVIC’s US Program Director, and Rachel Stohl of the Stimson Center argue that efforts by the Trump administration to increase arms exports should take a risk-based approach in order to minimize risks to civilians and better serve US interests. Read their report on modifying arms sales to mitigate civilian harm here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Afghanistan: On Monday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said that the Department of Defense blocked the release of a range of data on US progress in Afghanistan, including the number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government, the size of the Afghan army and police, details about Afghan troops’ casualties and attrition, and the number of civilian casualties. Inspector General John Sopko said the order is distressing because “the number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress…and for the American public of how the 16-year-lnog effort to secure Afghanistan is faring.” The classification of data comes amid a major expansion of US air power in the country and as American casualties have steadily increased. On Tuesday, a spokesman from Resolute Support said that a “human error in labeling” caused the data to be classified.

South Sudan: The State Department announced on Friday that it has banned the export of weapons and defense services to South Sudan due to continued violence between the government and armed opposition, despite the December 21 Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities. The decision is seen as more symbolic than practical, as the US government doesn’t sell arms or provide defense services to the country, though the US is also seeking support through the Security Council to impose an international arms embargo on South Sudan.

At Defense One, Dan Mahanty, CIVIC’s US Program Director, and Rachel Stohl of the Stimson Center argue that efforts by the Trump administration to increase arms exports should take a risk-based approach in order to minimize risks to civilians and better serve US interests. Read their report on modifying arms sales to mitigate civilian harm here.

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