The Pentagon is facing an outcry from human right groups who claim a multitude of civilians have been killed as a result of errant bombs, poor targeting, or faulty intelligence by the United States and its allies in the ongoing effort to conduct strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.
Military leaders are countering with statements saying that they do everything possible to prevent “civcas”, which is military-speak for civilian casualties. After more than 2300 airstrikes on military targets such as weapon depots, gun emplacements, and vehicles, the Pentagon states that it has not been presented with any verifiable proof that any civilians have been killed.
Some strikes were carried out in populous urban areas such as Aleppo and Raqqah in Syria.
Last month, the US Central Command stated that a total of 18 claims of civilian deaths – nine from Syria and nine from Iraq – have been investigated. 13 of those claims were deemed “not credible” and dismissed.
The other five are still under review and are being formally investigated, although the military does not reveal what evidence constitutes the necessity for a formal investigation.
Officials for the military state that any individuals or groups that claim civilian casualties need to produce verifiable evidence such as photographs or corroborating statements in order for those claims to be investigated further.
One critic, Human Rights Watch researcher Lama Fakih, wants an explanation, stating “We want their calculations in how they determine whether or not something is credible.”
According to the LA Times, Lt. Col. Jose “Ed” Sumangil is quoted as saying “It’s our mantra. We do everything we can, every step of the way, to mitigate against civilian deaths.” Sumangil is an Air Force weapons system officer in command of a B-1 bomber squadron nicknamed “The Bats”.
Since last summer, warplanes from the United States and coalition forces have dropped over 8000 guided missiles and bombs on Islamic State targets. Military commanders say that the advanced guidance systems of these weapons greatly aid in preventing unintended casualties. It is understood that collateral civilian damage could help build support for Sunni extremists.
Air Force Col. Lynn “Woody” Peitz said, “The strategic mistake is what I fear the most. We can lose this war with one bomb.” Peitz is the Deputy Commander of the Air Operations Center at Al Udeid.
Lt. Col. Sumangil goes on to say, “There are risks we take on every mission. We will not risk the lives of innocent civilians. That’s a chance we won’t take.”