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
A report by Action on Armed Violence shows a 42 percent increase in the number of civilian deaths from explosives during the first eleven months of 2017, compared to the same period of 2016: at least 15,399 civilians were killed in 2017 compared to 10,877 in 2016. Of total civilian deaths, 58 percent were the result of airstrikes, primarily in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, coinciding with Coalition operations to retake Mosul and Raqqa. Chris Woods, of Airwars, explains why airstrikes became so much deadlier in 2017 than in previous years.
Former RAF commander Air Marshall Greg Bagwell, who oversaw airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, said that it is inconceivable that no civilians have been killed in the more than 1,600 airstrikes that British forces have fired into Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. “I don’t think it’s credible to the average listener that we have not caused any civilian casualties just because you have got no evidence to the contrary.” Bagwell said that the Ministry of Defense’s claim of zero civilian casualties “perpetuates a myth that wars are bloodless” and that “there is a danger at the moment that we are conditioning ourselves to think a certain way – that wars are bloodless and we can carry out war in a ‘nice way.’”
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (December 28): In the month of November, CJTF-OIR carried over 695 open reports of possible civilian casualties from previous months and received 9 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 101 reports: 92 were assessed to be non-credible, none were assessed to be duplicates of previous reports, and nine were assessed to be credible, resulting in 11 unintentional civilian deaths. To date, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 817 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve. A total of 603 reports are still open.
AUMF Reform in Senate Talks: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) is unveiling plans to reform the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, with a legislative markup expected in the coming weeks. Said Corker, “I will say that there’s a lot of progress being made on the AUMF, and I think we’re going to be in a place, really soon, to have a markup. And we’re doing it in a way to engender support and input from members on both sides of the aisle.” The proposed legislation is a bipartisan compromise that would include ideas from the retiring Corker and his Senate colleagues Sens. Kaine (D-VA) and Flake (R-AZ) in an attempt to reform a 17-year-old AUMF that is widely perceived as a blank check for Presidential use of force. The current authorization, originally intended to enable military operations against Al Qaeda post-9/11, has been widely applied in anti-terror operations in Syria and Iraq, and provides the legal framework for many of the strikes that have killed civilians abroad.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
The alarm has been sounded loud and clear in #Idlib in #Syria.
There are few (if any really) viable solutions being offered to protect people there right now.
It shouldn’t need saying again and again but as violence escalates it’s children & civilians who pay. pic.twitter.com/CQG0CsWZuU
— Sara Firth (@Sara__Firth) January 9, 2018
January 16: Brookings Institution – Pakistan, America, and Extremism: The Path Ahead
January 16 – 18: USIP – Combining Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding
January 22: USIP – Ending Civil Wars
January 25: Atlantic Council – People Power Movements and International Human Rights
January 30: USIP – Preventing Atrocities in the 21st Century
February 2: Interaction – Civilian Protection: Skills for Practitioners
Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 737 – 1,551
Children Killed: 242 – 330
Total Killed: 7,207 – 10,511
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,705
Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,047
Coalition Strikes: 28,795
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 104,724
As Budget Deadline Approaches, Republicans Urge Defense Buildup: Senate Republicans need the support of their Democratic colleagues to pass a budget for 2018, a responsibility that has been delayed since last summer with multiple continuing resolutions. However, as talks on immigration appear to face resistance from President Trump, a clean compromise on any budget appears increasingly unlikely. The Administration has encouraged Defense Secretary Mattis to meet with Senate Democrats to emphasize their insistence on a defense budget build-up to smooth negotiations over defense and non-defense budget caps. However, minority party members have not seemed willing to abandon their demand for non-defense budget parity. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) nevertheless seems publicly optimistic that shutdown will be avoided; “I don’t think there will be [a shutdown],” said the Speaker. “I think we’re making progress with what we call the caps deal.” As the January 19th deadline approaches, Republican legislators are expected to intensify efforts to protect their $700 billion budget from the automatic cuts imposed by budget caps.
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
Afghanistan: On January 5, possible US strikes killed at least twenty-one IS-K fighters in Nangarhar’s Haska Mena district and at least fourteen IS-K militants in a separate strike in Laghman province. A possible US strike reported on January 6 killed a Taliban leader responsible for “financial deals and providing logistics” in Helmand province. Possible US strikes reported on January 10 in Khak e Safid, Farah province killed at least twenty-one militants.
ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA
Wednesday, January 17 – 2:00 pm – House Foreign Affairs Committee – More Than a Nuclear Threat: North Korea’s Chemical, Biological, and Conventional Weapons
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
Afghanistan: The Trump administration is reallocating drones and other equipment and sending around 1,000 new combat advisers to Afghanistan to bolster the US military presence before the traditional fighting season begins in the spring. It is sending a larger number of drones, both armed and unarmed, to Afghanistan for air support and ISR, as well as helicopters, ground vehicles, and artillery as combat operations in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State are reduced.
On Wednesday, Central Command said it launched an investigation into a video posted to YouTube that appears to show an American Special Forces soldier firing a shotgun into the driver’s door of a civilian truck in Afghanistan. Centcom said the “video in question is not official, not authorized, and does not represent the professionalism of the service members of US Central Command” and that appropriate actions will be taken as a result of the investigation.
Japan: The State Department approved the possible sale to Japan of Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missiles, worth an estimated $133.3 million.
WHAT WE’RE READING
The Intercept: “Since the combat deaths of four Special Forces soldiers in Niger in October, AFRICOM has been under greater media scrutiny than at any other time in its history. There have also been reports that Navy SEALs are being investigated in the strangulation death of another Green Beret in neighboring Mali, and that U.S. personnel took part in a massacre in Somalia. The command has deflected questions about the killing in Mali, offered murky and shifting explanations of the attack in Niger, and cleared U.S. personnel of wrongdoing in Somalia before launching a new investigation into the killings. All of this comes as the Defense Department as a whole has become less transparent and accessible, according to numerous journalists who cover U.S. national security.”