On February 5, Military Times published a report stating that Washington has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The investigation reveals that in Afghanistan in 2016 alone, the U.S. air force carried out at least 456 bombings. The open-source report published by the Air Force Command doesn’t include these figures.
According to the Military Times, the information was obtained from “Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups” and it shows that much of what the Pentagon has disclosed may be misleading or simply false. For instance, we cannot clearly see how these concealed airstrikes impact the defense budget. This is a matter of taxpayer expense as well as the U.S. military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities. But what’s more important is that hundreds or even thousands of civilians might have been killed or injured during these bombings.
For instance, in October 2016, Amnesty International claimed that in just 11 airstrikes conducted by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, at least 300 civilians were killed. Who knows how many people died or were wounded because of the undisclosed bombings?
According to Military Times‘ sources, the revealed information includes the airstrikes by helicopters and drones used in the U.S. military operations. An official told the publication that the Defense Department doesn’t track the number of strikes from Apache helicopters and has never tracked them.
That means that the full scope remains unclear. Without proper reports, the methods of the U.S. military to compile the data on its worldwide operations are put into question. The DoD routinely states that the coalition’s actions have been extremely effective against ISIS but the revealed data calls into question any such claim.
As for Iraq and Syria, U.S. military sources refuse to provide the data on U.S. air force activity in these countries. This looks rather suspicious as the military seem to be hiding the real figures. What could be a reason for such behavior? The Defense Department might be concealing those strikes that were carried out by mistake, for example the deadly attack against Syrian government troops in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria in September 2015 or those which resulted in civilian casualties.
The Military Times‘ investigation shows the U.S. air force is either in total chaos with no accurate numbers or proper reports or it is concealing some of its reporting for obvious political reason. Either way, the U.S. military is failing to provide accurate information on the real casualties or expenses of its operations in the Middle East. Wide-scale reforms by the Defense Department and the U.S. policy are needed so that U.S. citizens can accurately follow and judge the actions of their armed forces and people of the Middle East can be protected against potential war crimes.