The Pentagon has told Congress it estimates that nearly 500 civilians were killed as a result of US military actions in the first year of the Trump administration.
“(The Department of Defense) assesses that there are credible reports of approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017” as a result of military operations in Iraq and Syria targeting ISIS, operations in Afghanistan targeting the Taliban and ISIS, and operations in Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, the report said.
The report which provides an estimate of the number of civilian casualties in counterterrorism operations in 2017 also said the Defense Department has “no credible reports” of civilian casualties as a result of US military operations in Somalia or Libya last year.
However, the report adds that “more than 450 reports of civilian casualties from 2017 remained to be assessed,” meaning the number of civilian casualties caused by US military operations could go up.
The report covers both US airstrikes as well as ground combat operations.
During the first year of the Trump administration airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia increased while the number of strikes in Libya decreased.
The number of airstrikes in 2017 in Afghanistan was 4,361 versus 1,337 in 2016 and the number of strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2017 was 39,577 versus 30,743 in 2016, according to Air Forces Central Command.
“Despite the best efforts of US forces, civilian casualties are a tragic but at times unavoidable consequence of combat operations,” the Pentagon’s report said.
“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,” it added.
Delivery of the report was mandated by a 2016 executive order signed by then-President Barack Obama and by the subsequent passage of Section 1057 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.
That order called for “an annual summary” detailing the “the number of strikes undertaken by the US Government against terrorist targets” outside areas of active hostilities as well as information regarding the number of terrorists and civilians killed in those strikes.
The order said that the report was to be made public “annually on May 1, consistent with the need to protect sources and methods.”
Human rights groups slammed the Trump administration last month when the order’s deadline was missed.
The US-led military coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria released its own report Thursday saying that “at least 892 civilians have been unintentionally killed” as a result of the 29,358 strikes that the coalition has carried out against ISIS targets between August 2014 and the end of April 2018.
Outside groups have said that the number of civilians killed in the ISIS fight is much higher than the coalition’s figures.
“(The Department of Defense) acknowledges that there are differences between DoD assessments and reports from other organizations,” the report said, saying “these differences result from a variety of factors” including the use of “different types of information and different methodologies to assess whether civilian casualties have occurred.”