2 June 2018

Africa: U.S. Military Killed Almost 500 Civilians in 2017 - Pentagon Report

Photo: Brian Ferguson/USAF
An armed MQ-9 Reaper, a drone of the type which will be used to attack militants in the Sahel.

The Pentagon has told Congress that the US military killed almost 500 civilians and injured a further 169 in 2017.

The civilians were killed in operations around the world, from Somalia to Yemen to Syria.

"[The Department of Defense] assesses that there are credible reports of approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017," reads the Pentagon's report to Congress, as per CNN.

The casualty figures include those killed by airstrikes and take in operations in Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. The report did not include figures from Somalia or Libya, as there were "no credible reports" of civilian casualties there. The report added that a further 450 reports of civilian casualties from the same period have yet to be examined.

During the first year of the Trump presidency, bombing operations in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan were all stepped up. 4,361 bombs were dropped on Afghanistan in 2017, compared to 1,337 in 2016. In Iraq and Syria, 39,577 bombs were released in 2017, up from 30,743 in 2016.

The yearly publication of the report has been mandatory since former president Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2016.

This year's report was originally due for publication in early May but was delayed for unknown reasons.

The Pentagon kept records of civilian casualties under the Obama and Bush administrations but was not legally compelled to make the figures public.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 380 and 801 civilians were killed by drone strikes alone between 2009 and 2015, as Obama ramped up the US' targeted-killing program.

That same program would result in the drone assassination of US citizens in Yemen and Pakistan.

Administrations past and present like to portray their military operations as clean and professional. Obama called his use of drone warfare "exceptionally surgical and precise," while Trump described his airstrikes on Syria this April as "perfectly executed."

The reality, however, is not as sanitized. The Pentagon report shrugs off civilian casualties, calling them an unavoidable consequence of war.

"Despite the best efforts of US forces, civilian casualties are a tragic but at times unavoidable consequence of combat operations," it reads. "This is especially true when fighting in urban areas and against adversaries like ISIS and al-Qaeda who use civilians as shields and whose tactics include intentionally endangering the lives of innocents."

According to another official report released this week by the United States Central Command, at least 892 civilians have been killed by coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria since the campaign against Islamic State (ISIS, formerly IS/ISIL) began there in 2014.

These figures are disputed, and Airways, a nonprofit group tracking the war, claims that over 6,000 civilians have been killed since 2014.

More on This

A Dozen Shades of Khaki - Counter-Insurgency Operations in the Sahel

The region has never been so militarised. Here's an overview of the international players in uniform. Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: Shabelle

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.