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
The Raqqa Civilian Council needs international support and technical assistance to preserve evidence and identify remains recovered in several mass graves in and around the city of Raqqa, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. Local authorities are “struggling to cope with the logistical challenges of collecting and organizing information” on the bodies uncovered and provide It to families searching for missing or dead relatives.
Last week, the US-led coalition admitted that a March 2017 strike on the Syrian town of al-Mansoura killed at least 40 civilians after more than a year of denials of civilian harm. Yet, while the coalition’s admission is a positive step, it is an insufficient one, writes Nadim Houry, the director of terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch, in Just Security. The coalition did not explain what sort of investigation it conducted that led them to change the findings nor how it arrived at the number of civilians killed. Houry writes that the coalition owes victims and their relatives an explanation regarding the strike and should provide them with some form of redress.
Coalition forces carried out 29 strikes in Iraq and Syria between June 25 and July 1.
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (June 28): In the month of May, CJTF-OIR carried over 321 open reports from previous months and received 269 new reports between April 20 – May 31. The assessment of 276 civilian casualty reports have been completed. Five reports were determined to be credible, resulting in 62 unintentional civilian deaths, while 266 were assessed to be non-credible and five to be duplicate. A total of 314 reports are still open. The Coalition conducted a total of 29,596 strikes between August 2014 and end of May 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 939 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Three reasons why every #American should care about #Yemen. 1. World's worst #humanitarian crisis. 2. #U.S. weapons are being used to kill civilians 3. #Al Qaeda's most lethal affiliate operates here and remains defiant and deadly. #Yemencantwait https://t.co/uqNhvsDsGk
— Sudarsan Raghavan (@raghavanWaPo) July 8, 2018
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: 6,321
Coalition Strikes: 29,741
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 107, 814
The UAE announced a pause in the Hodeidah campaign to allow UN envoy Martin Griffiths to broker a deal between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels as aid groups fear that a battle would create a humanitarian catastrophe. Griffiths expressed optimism on Wednesday after meeting with top Houthi rebels, but a Houthi negotiator said that there was no breakthrough in negotiations. On Thursday, the Security Council backed the UN envoy’s efforts to start new talks and issued a statement reaffirming that “a political solution remains the only way to end the conflict.”
Fighting intensified in and around the city as Yemeni, Saudi, and UAE forces bombarded rebel positions after pausing their push into Hodeidah, though the coalition’s advance has been slowed due to land mines, drones, snipers, and humanitarian challenges. Thousands of civilians continue to flee as Houthi rebels build up defenses inside the city to repel coalition advances. The UN estimates that more than 121,000 residents have fled since June 1.
Yemen is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, and the US backing of the Saudi-led coalition could be enabling the disaster, write Robbie Gramer and Lara Seligman write in Foreign Policy. The Trump administration is facing growing pressure to halt military support for the coalition amid rising civilian casualties, but the administration’s support for the Saudi-led coalition continues.
Americans may be complicit in war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition, Stephen Rapp, former US ambassador at large for war crimes issues, writes in Just Security . Congress and the Trump administration must stop the supply of arms that are being used to commit war crimes and human rights violations and to demand that all parties cease their assaults on civilians.
Oliver Imhof and Osama Mansour of Airwars describe the ouster of the Islamic State from the Libyan city of Sirte in 2016 by US and Government of National Accord forces, noting that there are still no reliable numbers of civilian casualties. Throughout the campaign, there were reports of civilians being trapped in besieged areas due to the lack of safe passage and Islamic State fighters holding civilians as hostages and human shields, yet American forces still carried out 495 airstrikes in Sirte. Though Airwars estimates that at least 37 civilians were killed and 69 more injured in American airstrikes, the United States has not acknowledged any civilian casualties resulting from its air campaign.
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
A report obtained by The Intercept via a Freedom of Information Act request shows that US Africa Command and the State Department found local distrust of American intentions in Niger through public-opinion surveys – then the US military began building a $100 million drone base in Agadez. Nick Turse writes that local skepticism “has since given way to something far more malign” as the country is “now a hotbed of extremist groups.”
The American shadow war against AQAP is intensifying but the militants with a sharp escalation of US airstrikes in Yemen under the Trump administration. Pentagon officials say this effort is successfully rolling back AQAP, yet while the militants have been expelled from some of their strongholds, Yemeni forces admit that gains are precarious and AQAP remains a fierce opponent.
An American airstrike reportedly killed seven AQAP militants as they were traveling along a road in Yemen’s Shabwa province on Friday.
A suspected US drone strike killed a militant commander and his associate from the Gul Bahadur group on Wednesday in North Waziristan in Pakistan near the Afghan border.
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
American special operations forces are playing a more direct role in military actions against suspected terrorists in Africa than the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged, Politico reports. Whereas military spokespeople have said that the American role in Africa is limited to “advising and assisting” other militaries, US special forces operating under a little-known authority are planning and participating in combat raids by African troops in multiple countries.
Forty-six detainees from have been released from a UAE prison in Yemen, the third batch released after an AP investigation revealed that detainees have been subjected to torture and sexual abuse.
The United States is urging Pakistan to take “sustained and decisive steps” to press Taliban leaders to negotiate with the Afghan government.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Antonio Sampaio writes in Foreign Policy about the urbanization of armed conflict, arguing that “as cities expand across the developing world, preventing and de-escalating protracted urban conflict is one of the most important strategic and humanitarian challenges of our time.”
Former CIA director John Brennan discusses drones, civilian casualties, and transparency in this New York Times profile.