Secret Pentagon documents show that many US air strikes in the Middle East contained “serious intelligence errors,” which resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.
A treasure trove of secret documents is reported New York Times The series includes more than 1,300 reports on civilian casualties caused by U.S. air strikes in the Middle East.
The newspaper stated in an article published on December 18 that commitments to transparency and accountability are often overlooked. “None of the records provided showed improper behavior or resulted in disciplinary action.”
Although some of the cases mentioned in the “New York Times” have been reported before, their investigation found that the number of civilian casualties was “seriously underestimated”, at least a few hundred people.
In the three cited cases, the US special forces bombed a base believed to be the Islamic State (IS) in northern Syria on July 19, 2016. Initial reports stated that IS killed 85 fighters. However, in reality, the dead were 120 farmers and other villagers.
The report stated that the errors that caused civilian casualties were due to flaws in the monitoring process.
Recently, the United States had to withdraw its claims that its drone destroyed a bomb-laden vehicle on the streets of the Afghan capital Kabul in August. In fact, the victims of the airstrike were 10 members of a family, including children.
The report said that many civilians who survived the American attack were disabled and required expensive treatment. However, their expenditure is very limited.
When asked for comment, US Central Command spokesperson Bill Urban stated that “even with the best technology in the world, mistakes can happen, usually based on incomplete information or misunderstood information.”
“We tried to learn from these mistakes,” he added. “We are working hard to avoid this kind of harm. We investigate every case. We deeply regret every case where innocent people have been killed.”
US air strikes in the Middle East developed rapidly in the last few years of the Obama administration, when the public no longer supported ground warfare.
Obama said that this new method of frequently using remote-controlled drones can reduce the number of civilian deaths through high-precision technology.
However, the report stated that during the five-year period, the U.S. military carried out more than 50,000 air strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, the accuracy of which was far lower than that of propaganda.
In the process of finalizing the article, the New York Times stated that it “visited more than 100 casualties and interviewed numerous civilian survivors and former current and former US officials.”
The newspaper obtained Pentagon documents through a freedom of information petition in March 2017 and a lawsuit against the Department of Defense and the Central Command.
Before launching an air strike, the U.S. military must adopt a complex agreement to estimate and minimize civilian casualties. But in some respects, intelligence may be flawed, which can sometimes lead to catastrophic mistakes.
For example, aerial video cannot show the number of people in a building, under a tree, or under a tarp. According to the report, sometimes, “motorcyclists who are moving in’formation’ are a’signal’ that they are about to launch an attack, and they are actually just ordinary motorcyclists.”
According to Urban, airstrike planners will do their best under extremely difficult conditions. However, he added that “in many combat situations, false information can lead to disastrous civilian harm decisions”.
Wu Huang (follow Agence France-Presse)