November 4, 2021 – After twenty years of repeated mistakes and devastating civilian harm arising from U.S. counterterrorism operations around the world, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) urges long-overdue changes to U.S. lethal force and targeting policies to prioritize the protection of civilians, learn from past mistakes, and ensure compliance with international law.
Yesterday, U.S. Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said provided a summary of the Inspector General’s investigation into the August 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians, including Zemari Ahmadi and three of his children, Zamir (age 20), Faisal (age 16), and Farzad (age 10); Mr. Ahmadi’s cousin Naser (age 30); and children Arwin (age 7), Benyamin (age 6), Hayat (age 2), Malika (age 3), and Somaya (age 3). The report found no wrongdoing or negligence, but identified confirmation bias, communication breakdowns, and execution errors leading to the deaths of ten civilians.
These mistakes, and the harm that resulted from them on August 29, are unfortunately not unique. “U.S. military, media, and civil society investigations into operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia have repeatedly identified these problems in U.S. airstrikes and targeting processes, yet we are still waiting for meaningful reform while civilians continue to pay the price,” says CIVIC Executive Director Federico Borello. “The U.S. military’s failure to learn from twenty years of the same mistakes is unacceptable.”
As the Biden administration reviews U.S. counterterrorism policies, CIVIC urges the administration and Congress to critically revise U.S. lethal force polices, including targeting procedures, to prioritize the protection of civilians and ensure alignment with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. In particular, we repeat our calls for the swift release of a Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction on Civilian Harm that rectifies systemic shortcomings in civilian harm prevention and response, and for an end to the U.S. program of lethal strikes outside recognized battlefields. CIVIC also urges the public release of the Inspector General’s report as soon as possible, as has been done in previous investigations such as those on the 2016 Kunduz strike on a Médicins Sans Frontières trauma center and the 2017 strike on al-Jadida, Mosul.
To hear directly from Nutrition and Education International (NEI), Zemari Ahmadi’s employer, on the report’s findings, read their joint statement with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) here.
Read CIVIC’s original statement on the August 29 strike here and our letter with 110+ other organizations calling for an end to the U.S. program of lethal strikes outside recognized battlefields here.