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-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have launched a final offensive to oust Islamic State militants from the town of Hajin in eastern Syria, the last remaining territory under the group’s control. The SDF launched ground operations for the final of three phases of “Operation Roundup” on Monday backed by Coalition air power.

US military officials are anticipating a long fight to retake Hajin from the 1,500 to 2,500 Islamic State fighters in the city. An estimated 60,000 people are believed to be living in Hajin and neighboring villages. Residents have said the militants are trapping people in the town, monitoring the roads and posting snipers.

Coalition forces carried out 22 strikes in Iraq and Syria between September 3 and 9.

MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT (August 30): In the month of July, CJTF-OIR carried over 232* open reports from previous months and received two new reports. The assessment of 18 civilian casualty reports has been completed. Three reports were determined to be credible, resulting in two unintentional civilian deaths, while 15 were assessed to be non-credible. A total of 216 reports are still open. CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1061 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

STATISTICS

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

Civilians Killed: 751 – 1,580

Children Killed: 252 – 355

Total Killed: 7,988 – 11,383

Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 4,973

Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)

Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,575

Coalition Strikes: 29,948

Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 108, 462

YEMEN

The Saudi-UAE coalition has renewed its assault on Hodeida after the collapse of UN-sponsored peace talks earlier this month in Geneva. Fighting is concentrated in the city’s southern and eastern borders, including heavy ground clashes and sustained aerial bombardments.

UN humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande, said on Thursday that the situation in the city “has deteriorated dramatically in the past few days.” She warned of an “incalculable human cost” as Yemeni forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE seized the main road linking Hodeida to Sanaa, blocking the main gateway for food, fuel, and humanitarian aid to the rest of the country.

The Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that 500,000 people fled Hodeida between June and August and that 55,000 have fled so far this month.

SEE: CIVIC Quick Reference Guide: US Law & Policy on the Use of Military Force and Lethal Operations

UPCOMING EVENTS

October 2: NYU Wagner – Navigating the Gulf: How Economic Trends Are Driving Politics and US Counterterrorism Efforts in the Arabian Peninsula

October 9: NYU Wagner – State of Rebellion: Violence and Intervention in the Central African Republic

CONGRESS

Secretary Pompeo Recertifies U.S. Involvement in Yemen War

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress that “the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments” as required under section 1290 of the 2019 NDAA.

Democratic representatives in Congress expressed their disapproval of Secretary Pompeo’s choice to certify Saudi Arabia’s civilian protection policies. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a reliable advocate for ending support for the Saudi bombing campaign, said following Pompeo’s certification, “The Saudis deliberately bombed a bus full of children. There is only one moral answer, and that is to end our support for their intervention in Yemen. If this executive will not do it, then Congress must pass a war powers resolution.”

Congress Poised to Pass $674 Billion Defense Appropriation

Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have reached a formal agreement on a ‘minibus’ appropriations bill joining the defense budget with the labor/HHS spending package. This bipartisan effort has effectively secured the largest parts of the government’s discretionary budget much earlier than normal; this is the first time Congress has passed the defense budget before the start of the fiscal year in a decade.

DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLING

The US military will begin operating MQ-9 Reapers from the remote base that the Air Force is building in Agadez, Niger, marking a sharp escalation of the US drone war in Africa. The Pentagon is also considering a proposal to severely cut special operations forces in Africa.

The CIA is also broadening its drone operations under expanded authorities by the Trump administration, flying drones from a small commercial airport in Dirkou, Niger. One official said the drones haven’t yet been used in lethal missions but likely would in the future to counter threats in southern Libya.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights reviewed Niger’s compliance with its human rights obligations, calling on it to ensure that the use of armed drones in the country complies with international law.

The State Department announced on Wednesday that it has added al Qaeda’s affiliate in Mali has been added to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The group, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), was established in March 2017.

The US Air Force has built a hangar at Romania’s 71st Air Base in Campia Turzii that could be used to house MQ-9 Reaper drones to support intelligence-gathering operations around Eastern Europe and monitor the Black Sea.

US forces have conducted six airstrikes against AQAP in Yemen since May 16, bringing the total number of US airstrikes in Yemen to 34 this year according to Central Command. The Associated Press reported an additional US drone strike last week in Abyan province that killed four AQAP militants.

DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLING

Earlier this month, the New York Times revealed the existence of a new CIA drone base in Niger. While an American official said the drones haven’t yet been used in lethal missions, a Nigerien official reportedly said that one drone operating at the base had already killed an al Qaeda target in southern Libya. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism explains the significance of the new base and its implications for accountability and civilian harm.

US forces killed two militants in an airstrike in Somalia on Tuesday during a battle between US and Somali government troops and al-Shabaab fighters.

SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES

The State Department approved several arms sales this week:

  • 6 P-8A Patrol Aircraft and related equipment and 64 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles to South Korea, for a combined cost of $2.6 billion
  • Up to 9 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Early Warning and Control aircraft to Japan, worth an estimated $3.135 billion

WHAT WE’RE READING

Paul Scharre warns of the AI arms race and increasing autonomy in warfare in Foreign Policy: “While the competitive advantages to be gained from letting machines run the battlefield are clear, the risks would be grave: Accidents could cause conflicts to spiral out of control.”

Christina Goldbaum writes in The Atlantic about the expanding US drone war in Somalia.

Image courtesy of U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Frances Ariele Tejada
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