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
Dan Mahanty, Rahma Hussein, and Alex Moorehead provide an analysis of the Department of Defense’s recent report on civilian casualties in Just Security. Despite many limitations and gaps in reporting on civilian casualties, the report marks an important step toward constructive discussion on handling civilian harm in US military operations.
Coalition forces carried out 134 strikes in Iraq and Syria between June 1 and 10.
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (May 31): In the month of April, CJTF-OIR carried over 476 open reports from previous months and received four new reports. The assessment of 159 civilian casualty reports have been completed. Five reports were determined to be credible, resulting in nine unintentional civilian deaths, while 149 were assessed to be non-credible and five to be duplicate. A total of 321 reports are still open. The Coalition conducted a total of 29,358 strikes between August 2014 and end of April 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 892 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on Wednesday to seize Hodeidah from Houthi forces, despite warnings from the United Nations that the assault would worsen the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The United States has given cautious backing for the offensive, despite growing opposition from Congress. US officials said once it became clear that Emirati forces were going forward with the offensive, they were focused instead on trying to ensure that the operation did not damage key infrastructure and that civilian sites were not targeted – American advisers are helping to develop a list of targets meant to be off limits for airstrikes.
The UN estimates that as many as 600,000 civilians are living in and around Hodeidah and that as many as 250,000 civilians could be killed in the fighting.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
The Yemen War is spiraling out of control. The Saudi/UAE/U.S. coalition bombed a Doctors Without Borders cholera treatment facility earlier today.
Let me repeat that – the U.S helped bomb A DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS CHOLERA TREATMENT FACILITY.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 11, 2018
June 18: Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law – International Law: A Casualty in the “War on Terror?”
June 19: Center for Strategic and International Studies – Restoring Restraint: Enforcing Accountability for Users of Chemical Weapons
June 20: New America – Lawless Skies: Airstrikes and Civilian Casualties in Libya
June 26: Stimson Center – Crisis in Yemen: Accountability and Reparations
June 27: US Institute of Peace – Creating a Stable Peace in the Central African Republic
Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 751 – 1,555
Children Killed: 252 – 345
Total Killed: 7,584 – 10,918
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,809
Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,321
Coalition Strikes: 29,651
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 107, 383
Sen. Paul Threatens to Block NDAA Over Indefinite Detentions: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is threatening to derail Senate debate over the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act until his amendment to end indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay receives a vote, alleging that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is responsible for the amendment being blocked. Senator Paul also joined Democrats and other libertarian Republicans in supporting legislation to replace the United States’ decades-old AUMF. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this week.
HASC Defense Budget Orders New Manned and Unmanned Air Vehicles: The Senate’s deliberation process over the new defense policy bill is also expected to conclude debate over the first transfer of F-35 jets to Turkey, which is attempting to purchase over 100 of the fighter planes. Opposition among members of Congress has largely been driven by Turkey’s detention of American political prisoners and Turkish plans to purchase an air defense system from Russia. Deliberations have not been centered on Turkey’s capacity to cause civilian harm in its conflict with the Kurds in northern Syria, where it was accused by Human Rights Watch of killing at least 150 civilians since the start of the conflict. The Senate amendment, which would prevent the deal pending a Department of Defense report, is expected to be voted on as part of the NDAA later this week. It is unclear whether it will survive to the Senate’s final draft or succeed in a conference draft of the bill.
On the Congressional Agenda:
- Tuesday, June 19 – 9:30 am – Senate Armed Services Committee – Nomination of Lieutenant General Austin S. Miller, USA To Be General And Commander, Resolute Support Mission, North Atlantic Treaty Organization / Commander, United States Forces-Afghanistan
- Wednesday, June 20 – 10:00 am – House Foreign Affairs Committee – US Policy Toward Afghanistan
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
An American drone strike reportedly killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, and four other senior commanders on Wednesday in Kunar province, according to Pakistani officials. A spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan confirmed that the military carried out a strike on Wednesday that targeted “a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization” but didn’t confirm Fazlullah’s death.
US forces carried out an airstrike in Libya against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on June 13, marking the second American strike against AQIM in Libya. US forces first targeted the group in March 2018, before focusing counterterrorism strikes almost exclusively on Islamic State fighters in the north.
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The State Department approved a $930 million sale to India of AH-64E Apache helicopters.
The US government is proceeding with plans to deliver F-35s to Turkey this week, despite opposition from some members of Congress.
The United States needs a more prudent approach to arms sales, write Trevor Thrall and Caroline Dorminey in War on the Rocks. An updated approval process for arms sales should consider the potential risks of selling weapons to risky states in light of the potential benefits.
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found major failings in the Global Train and Equip program, with only eight of twenty-one projects in 2016 and 2017 showing improved capabilities for local military forces. Colby Goodman, director of the Security Assistance Monitor, said there needs to be more transparency on the goals and strategies are for assistance programs.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Eyal Press writes in The New York Times about the hidden wounds of drone warriors, a subject rarely discussed by the American public as the US drone program is kept hidden from public view. Though drone warfare is often cast as a “costless and bloodless exercise,” soldiers fighting from afar suffer moral injuries.
Robert Malley and Jon Finer write in Foreign Affairs about the dangers of the United States’ excessive focus on counterterrorism.