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
OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE
The US-led Coalition is “deeply in denial” about the large number of civilians killed and injured in its bombing campaign in Raqqa, Amnesty International said in a statement last week. While the Coalition’s partner on the ground in Raqqa, the Syrian Democratic Forces, acknowledged in a June 2018 letter “unsuccessful air strikes” resulting in “huge human and material losses,” the Coalition has dismissed almost all civilian casualty allegations as “non-credible.”
Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty, said, “The blustery denials we’ve repeatedly seen and heard from senior Coalition officials are contradicted by the lived reality of the hundreds of civilians we’ve interviewed for our investigations in Raqqa and Mosul. They’re even contradicted by their own partners on the ground.”
Coalition forces carried out 14 strikes in Iraq and Syria between July 9 and July 15.
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.
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: 29,786
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 108, 107
A family of fourteen was killed when a US airstrike destroyed their home on Friday in Kunduz province. Afghan and American officials initially denied that any civilians were killed in the attack, though a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense later said that civilians had been killed, adding “as you know, terrorists use civilians as human shields.” The US military has maintained that no civilians were killed.
Senior Democrat Blocks Gulf Arms Sales
Progress on NDAA Conference Draft
Representatives have begun the process of releasing statements about the NDAA Conference Committee’s draft of the $716 billion defense budget. A final draft of the legislation is expected to be released and voted upon later this week.
On the Congressional Agenda
- Tuesday, July 24 – 2:00pm – House Foreign Affairs Committee – Egypt: Security, Human Rights, and Reform
- Wednesday, July 25 – 2:30 pm – Senate Foreign Relations Committee – An Update on American Diplomacy to Advance our National Security Strategy
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
The United Kingdom’s drone program is putting civilian lives in danger and exposing personnel to the risk of being prosecuted because the government has not yet established a “clear policy and sound legal bases” for the use of drones, a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group found last week. The report cited concerns regarding the legality of UK assistance to the US drone program, “which is widely seen to be in violation of international law,” and said that the partnership “comes with serious risks, particularly under the Trump administration.” It raised concerns that British intelligence may have enabled targeted killings by the United States in countries where the UK is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, warning that “there is considerable danger of the UK being complicit in its partners’ unlawful conduct.”
A suspected US drone strike killed four AQAP militants in Yemen’s Marib province on Sunday.
Former director of Reprieve, Cori Crider, explains in this video how the US military uses AI for selecting drone targets and how faulty algorithmic processing can lead to civilian harm.
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The United States has already sold more weapons this year than in all of 2017. In the first two quarters of this fiscal year, the US has signed $46.9 billion in weapons sales to foreign partners and allies, surpassing the $41.9 billion sold in all of FY 2017.
President Trump has approved the State Department’s implementation plan for the administration’s Conventional Arms Transfer policy. The policy, announced in April, is designed to slash red tape and increase arms sales to allies.
A loophole in the new arms export policy gives the Trump administration further cover to sell weapons to some of the world’s worst human rights violators. The policy, which bars sales to countries that perpetrate “attacks intentionally directed against civilian objects or civilians,” is particularly significant in light of the Saudi- and Emirati-led bombing in campaign in Yemen, where civilian deaths are consistently classified as unintentional.
The US is planning to send an additional $200 million in defense aid to Ukraine to go toward “training, equipment, and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine’s forces,” the Pentagon announced on Friday.
The United States has offered India the armed version of Guardian drones that were initially authorized for sale as unarmed surveillance aircraft.
The State Department said on Monday that it is negotiating the possible sale of a Raytheon Patriot missile defense system to Turkey as an alternative to the Russian-made S-400 system that Turkey has agreed to purchase.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned Congress against punishing Turkey for its plans to buy the Russian anti-aircraft system by blocking the sale of F-35s to Turkey, arguing that a cutoff risks triggering an international “supply chain disruption” that would increase costs and delay deliveries of the plane.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Gen. Donald Bolduc writes in Task and Force that the United States will be in Afghanistan until we begin to hold our senior leaders accountable, arguing that senior civilians, policy makers, and military officials over three administrations are responsible for the failures in policy, strategy, and operational approach: “We ignored the results even though numerous studies told us our approach was wrong.”
In this Monkey Cage analysis, Paul Staniland explains America’s “violence management” approach to counterinsurgency – and the risks involved: “As long as the US government can limit the domestic costs of violence management overseas, few Americans will have incentives to pay attention to these low-level, far-flung wars.”