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

The Coalition is helping the SDF regroup after Islamic State militants killed dozens of fighters and regained territory they lost last month in eastern Syria. Fighting between the SDF, backed by Coalition air power, and Islamic State in Deir Ezzor is the most intense in weeks, and “civilians there are being attacked from all sides.” UN humanitarian official Jan Egeland said that around 15,000 people, including IS fighters and their families, live in the area.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented 167 civilian deaths during the month of October – the lowest monthly death toll since the start of 2018. At least 43 civilians were killed by Coalition forces as fighting escalated in Deir Ezzor.

Coalition forces carried out 188 strikes between October 21 and 27.

MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (October 25): In the month of September, CJTF-OIR carried over 310 open reports from previous months and received one new report. The assessment of 104 civilian casualty reports has been completed. Out of the 104 completed casualty reports, none of the reports were determined to be credible and resulted in zero unintentional civilian deaths. The Coalition conducted a total of 30,247 strikes between August 2014 and end of September 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1114 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Chris Woods, head of Airwars, said the Coalition’s assessment of ‘zero unintentional civilian deaths’ speaks “to systemic flaws in OIR’s casualty monitoring and the notorious unwillingness of the Coalition’s ground partners, the SDF, to concede any civilian harm from their own actions.”

TWEET OF THE WEEK

STATISTICS

Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)

Civilians Killed: 751 – 1,597

Children Killed: 252 – 359

Total Killed: 8,059 – 11,482

Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,990

Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)

Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,575

Coalition Strikes: 30,622

Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 109,507

YEMEN

The Trump administration is stepping up pressure to end the war in Yemen amid growing opposition to US support for Saudi Arabia in Congress, with both Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis issuing calls last week for a rapid ceasefire and UN-led peace talks in coming weeks. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that the humanitarian situation is desperate and that “Yemen today stands on a precipice.”

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said last week that “there is a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen.” The UN estimates that 14 million people – half of Yemen’s population – are facing “pre-famine” conditions and need aid to survive. Already more than 1.8 million children are malnourished, 400,000 severely so. Geert Cappelaere, the Middle East director for UNICEF, said that a child under the age of 5 is dying every 10 minutes from preventable diseases and severe acute malnutrition.

Days after the US call for a ceasefire, the Saudi-led coalition appeared to have launched a new offensive aimed at securing “areas liberated” from the Houthis. The coalition has sent more than 10,000 additional troops to Hodeida, and Houthi rebels are taking up positions along the front lines. There have been fierce clashes, including heavy fighting, shelling, and airstrikes reported in southern and eastern areas of the city.

At least 575 Yemeni civilians were killed in fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi forces between August 1 and October 15, with many more dying from disease and hunger, Oxfam said in a statement last week.

An interactive article from the New York Times documents the devastating effects of the war in Yemen. While fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthis has received more attention, economic war is “exacting a far greater toll on civilians and now risks tipping the country into a famine of catastrophic proportions.” UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, said that Yemen is facing an “income famine” – food is available in Yemen, but people cannot afford to buy it. “The key to stopping it is to ensure that people have enough money to buy what they need to survive.”

From the New York Times: Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis: How to Help.

AFGHANISTAN 

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its latest quarterly report last week. Afghan forces “made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban over this quarter” and “failed to gain greater control over districts, population, and territory this quarter.” The Afghan government’s control or influence declined slightly to 55 percent of the country’s 407 districts – the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.

The report also found a vast discrepancy between Resolute Support’s civilian casualty data and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA). From January 1 through August 15, Resolute Support recorded 102 civilian casualties resulting from US and Afghan airstrikes – less than 1/6 of the 649 UNAMA documented 649 from January through September.

The New York Times Kabul Bureau reported 36 civilian deaths in Afghanistan from October 26 to November 1.

CONGRESS

Probe into American Mercenaries in Yemen

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is calling for an investigation into whether former American soldiers worked as mercenaries to carry out an assassination program for the United Arab Emirates after Buzzfeed reported last week that the UAE hired an American company, Spear Operations Group, to run a targeted killing program in Yemen.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Warren demanded an investigation into whether any US servicemembers violated US law while working on behalf of the UAE: “If the report that these Americans coordinated as paid mercenaries to kill individuals abroad is accurate, it raises questions about potential criminal liability for the participants and for any US government official who may have been aware of or endorsed these activities.

Warren also sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asking whether “any State Department official knew of the reported direct participation of Americans” in the UAE’s assassination program.

SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES

The State Department approved the possible sale of sixteen H-47 Chinook Extended Range helicopters to the United Kingdom for an estimated cost of $3.5 billion.

Poland has made an official request to purchase one M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), making it the second country in eastern Europe to buy the HIMARS system after Romania. The State Department cleared a potential sale in November for 56 HIMARS launchers for an estimated $250 million.

DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLING

US Africa Command said that it conducted an airstrike against al-Shabaab near Kunyo Barrow last week, making it the 28th airstrike carried out by US forces in Somalia this year.

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • November 5: New America Foundation – Afghanistan: What’s Next After Parliamentary Elections?
  • November 6: Washington College of Law – The Fusion of Drones and Artificial Intelligence: Benefits, Threats, and Law Pertaining to National Security
  • November 6: Brookings Institution – From War to Famine: How to End Yemen’s Violent Conflict?
  • November 9: Stimson Center – The Future of UN Mediation, Peacebuilding, Sanctions, and Special Envoys
Image courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kylee Ashton
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