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
In its most recent quarterly report, the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan recorded “extreme levels of harm to civilians.” Between January and September 2018, UNAMA documented 2,798 civilian deaths and 5,252 civilians injured – the highest number of deaths since 2014. Suicide attacks and the use of improvised explosive devices by insurgents remained the leading cause of civilian casualties.
The report also recorded a 39 percent increase in the number of civilian casualties resulting from airstrikes – 339 civilians were killed in strikes, with US forces responsible for just over half of the deaths. The civilian casualty toll from airstrikes during the first nine months of 2018 has already the number of civilian casualties over every entire years since UNAMA began recording casualties in 2009. It’s not clear why civilian casualties from strikes has risen – it could be due to an increase in air operations, but information on US strikes in Afghanistan was not made public until last month.
The Kabul Bureau of the New York Times recorded 31 civilian deaths across Afghanistan between October 5 and 11.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
If it’s found out that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman authorized the killing of Jamal Khashoggi then the U.S. should stop supporting the bombing campaign in Yemen.
And if that’s not found out the U.S. should stop supporting the bombing campaign in Yemen.
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) October 10, 2018
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: 30,226
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 108, 462
On Thursday, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on Saudi Arabia to “put an end to the airstrikes” and prosecute officials responsible for civilian casualties due to unlawful attacks. The expert panel expressed concern over the inefficiency of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, as “there has been no case, let alone a case involving child casualties, recruitment, or use of children in armed hostilities, where its investigations led to prosecutions” of responsible individuals. The UN estimates that at least 1,248 children have been killed in airstrikes since March 2015 – nearly 20 percent of civilian deaths from air attacks.
“There is undue risk being posed to civilians because of the fact that this is a war being conducted from 20,000 feet,” David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, said after a visit to Yemen in September. Miliband noted the coalition’s “complete lack of military progress,” even after 18,000 strikes, which have caused 75 percent of all civilian casualties – and called for the United States to end military support to the Saudi-led coalition.
The air campaign in Hodeida has intensified with heavy strikes through the week, and civilians noted frequent, low-hovering jets over the city. A Saudi-led coalition strike on Saturday killed seventeen civilians and wounded twenty in Hodeida’s Jebel Ras area on Saturday, while a separate strike on Monday killed four civilians working on a bee farm.
Amnesty International criticized the Coalition’s failure to help Raqqa recover from its military campaign. Nearly a year after the offensive to oust the Islamic State, 80 percent of the city is in ruins, and thousands of bodies still lie in the rubble. So far, about 2,500 bodies have been recovered, the majority killed by coalition airstrikes.
OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE
There is heavy fighting between Coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State fighters in al-Sousah, Hajin, and al-Baghuz in eastern Deir Ezzor. The SDF is backed by Coalition air power but has been slowed by mines, sniper fire, and suicide attacks. On Saturday, the Islamic State abducted as many as 130 families, mostly foreign women including wives of former IS fighters, from al-Bahra camp outside of the town of Hajin and has taken them to areas in the last pocket of territory that the group controls.
Coalition forces carried out 70 strikes in Iraq and Syria between October 1 and 6.
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (September 27): In the month of August, CJTF-OIR carried over 219 open reports from previous months and received 151 new reports. The assessment of 60 civilian casualty reports has been completed. Out of the 60 completed casualty reports, eight of the reports were determined to be credible and resulted in 53 unintentional civilian deaths. Two of the reports were determined to be duplicate reports that had previously reported and the remaining 50 reports were assessed to be non-credible. A total of 310 reports are still open. The Coalition conducted a total of 30,008 strikes between August 2014 and end of August 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.
SENATORS RESPOND TO SAUDI JOURNALIST’S DISAPPEARANCE
Senators in both parties are pushing to force a vote on cutting off US arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the abduction and assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has sent a letter to the White House calling for a probe into whether individuals in Saudi Arabia committed “an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression.”
However, President Trump has said that cutting off the proposed $110 billion arms package “would not be acceptable” because it would drive Saudi Arabia to Russia and China. The Trump administration has said that the proposed arms deal, as agreed upon in May 2017, would create jobs and bolster the US economy, but has provided no public breakdown of the deal, including what exactly has been offered and for how much. Many have said the $110 billion figure is vastly inflated.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has signed “letters of offer and acceptance” for only $14.5 billion in sales. Since these sales already have tacit congressional approval, they cannot be blocked, but senators could make a move against the next potential US weapons sale to Saudi Arabia.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Todd Young (R-IN), submitted a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week concerning his decision to certify that Saudi Arabia is minimizing civilian casualties as it conducts a bombing campaign in Yemen. The lawmakers said they had “significant concerns” with his support for the Gulf countries and asked Pompeo to justify his decision by October 31.
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The US sold $55.6 billion in weapons abroad in FY2018 – a 33 percent increase from last year’s $41.93 billion.