Defense Department says U.S. military likely killed 23 civilians in 2020
- The Defense Department said 23 civilians were likely killed and 10 injured by the U.S. military in 2020.
- The discovery came in a report on US operations in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.
- Independent observers have said the real toll is likely much higher.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
The US military killed at least 23 civilians in 2020, according to a new Defense Department report, a steep drop from previous years as offensive operations were significantly reduced during the pandemic. Ten other civilians were likely injured, the department said.
In 2017, by contrast, the US military said it had killed nearly 500 civilians.
But independent observers have said the actual number of civilian casualties is again likely much higher than the United States is willing to admit. The Airwars monitoring group, for example, estimates that at least 102 civilians have been killed by US operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Chris Woods, group director, said he welcomed The report, which is mandated by Congress and published annually.
“We remain concerned, however, that DoD estimates of civilian damage once again fall well below credible public estimates, and call on officials to examine why such underestimates remain so common,” Woods said in A declaration. “Civilians surely deserve better.”
The report itself, which the ministry publishes annually, acknowledges that there are many more allegations of innocent people being killed than the military itself deems credible.
In Afghanistan, according to the report, the US military received 165 reports of operations-related civilian casualties in 2020. Of these, seven were deemed legitimate, resulting in about 20 civilian deaths and five injuries.
Airwars, on the other hand, estimates that at least 89 civilians were killed and 31 others injured.
It often takes years for the United States to admit that civilian casualties have occurred.
In November 2020, a spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command told Insider that an internal review revealed that two civilians were indeed injured in an airstrike in Yemen that had taken place three years earlier.
In Somalia, the United States also admitted last year that it killed two civilians in an airstrike in February 2019 after insisting for months that the victims were “terrorists.”
The latest report itself notes that 65 additional civilians were killed between 2017 and 2019, with 22 others injured, beyond previously reported numbers.
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, accused the Biden administration of obscuring the full record of US military operations.
“The grossly inadequate official accounting of the costs and consequences of the United States’ murderous actions abroad precludes meaningful public oversight and accountability for wrongful deaths and perpetual war policies,” Shamsi said. “Civilian victims, their families and the American public deserve much better than this.”
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