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, 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 AND COALITION OPERATIONS
OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE
After heavy fighting and Coalition bombing, the offensive in Baghouz is ‘as good as over’ and requires only a little more time to be completed on the ground, according to a spokesman for the SDF. US envoy James Jeffrey said on Friday that there are only a few hundred Islamic State fighters remaining in the enclave.
More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have left Baghouz since the SDF began its offensive over two months ago, SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said on Sunday. The al Hol displacement camp now holds more than 67,000 people with critical shortages of tents, food, and medicine and camp workers said that they fear the spread of diseases.
At least 50 civilians, including women and children, were reportedly killed in Coalition airstrikes while trying to flee from Baghouz.
Coalition forces carried out two strikes in Iraq and 97 strikes in Syria between February 24 and March 9.
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (February 28): In the month of January, CJTF-OIR carried over 182 open reports from previous months and received 22 new reports, five of them were previously closed, but the CIVCAS cell reopened them due to new information. The assessment of 63 civilian casualty allegation reports has been completed. Out of the 63 completed casualty allegation reports, 12 reports were determined to be credible and resulted in 67 unintentional civilian deaths. None of the reports were determined to be duplicate report and the remaining 51 reports were assessed to be non-credible. A total of 141 reports are still open.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
In an historic vote, the Senate sent an important message: we will no longer support Saudi Arabia in causing the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet. Congress will reassert its constitutional authority on issues of war and end U.S. support for the war in Yemen. https://t.co/6l7s4L4aLE
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 13, 2019
Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 769 – 1,725
Children Killed: 253 – 397
Total Killed: 8,459 – 12,105
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 6,786
Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Civilians Killed: 7,558 – 12,155
Children Killed: 1,584 – 2,154
Coalition Strikes in Iraq: 14,424
Coalition Strikes in Syria: 19,280
The Coalition conducted a total of 33,921 strikes between August 2014 and end of January 2019. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1257 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said that at least 24 civilians were killed and injured in three separate operations by Afghan and American forces on March 8 and 9 in Wardak, Nangarhar, and Paktia provinces.
The New York Times recorded 26 civilian deaths in Afghanistan between March 8 and 14.
The Senate voted on Wednesday to end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the resolution now heads to the House, which approved a very similar measure last month. While President Trump has said he will veto any legislation halting US involvement in Yemen and a veto override is unlikely, it sends a message to both Trump and Saudi Arabia about the humanitarian disaster in Yemen.
The Department of Defense released its fiscal year 2020 budget request this week, which includes $718 billion in overall funds, with $174 billion slated for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. Republicans and Democrats alike in the House are opposed to ballooning the OCO budget in order to increase Defense spending capabilities. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, dismissed the idea out of hand: “I think the idea of having this massive OCO is not one that pretty much anyone takes seriously. The real negotiations will have to happen on Capitol Hill.”
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The State Department approved two sales last week:
- 11 assault amphibious vehicles to Spain, worth an estimated $107 million
- 108 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles to Australia for an estimated cost of $240.5 million
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLINGS
Last week, the Trump administration ended an Obama-era requirement that the US government publish an annual report on the number of civilians and combatants killed in airstrikes outside of active war zones. In Just Security, Larry Lewis writes that while this creates a transparency gap, it also offers an opportunity for Congress to fill that gap and reinforce other sections of the 2016 Executive Order.
Under the Trump administration, the US military has escalated the air war against al Shabaab in Somalia resulting in record numbers of Shabaab fighters killed. With 24 strikes during January and February, strikes are set to eclipse the 2018 record. Yet the surge in strikes is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in the country and is “drawing the United States significantly deeper into an armed conflict without much public debate.”
There’s also no public record of CIA activities in the country, including if it has its own drone program targeting Shabaab militants, even as the agency is intertwined with the military’s activities in the region.
ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA
- Wednesday, March 27 – 1:00 pm – House Foreign Affairs Committee – The State Department’s Foreign Policy Strategy and FY20 Budget Request
- March 20: Stimson Center – Transparency and Accountability in U.S. Counterterrorism Strikes
- March 21: Center for Strategic and International Studies – Army Modernization: Priorities to Get to the Army of 2028
- March 21: New America – 21st Century Proxy Warfare
- March 21: Atlantic Council – US Military Strategy and Great Power Competition with Gen. Joseph Dunford
- March 26: Center for Strategic and International Studies – The Case for U.S. Foreign Assistance
- March 26: Center for Strategic and International Studies – Long Game or Long Gone? Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the State of U.S. Counterterrorism
- April 5: Brookings Institution – Redefining U.S. National Security: Interlinkages with American Society and Foreign Policy