Pentagon documents reveal 'deeply flawed' U.S. air war: report

Wang Xinjuan
2021-12-19 15:03:09
Aimal Ahmadi, a Kabul resident, who lost his daughter, his brother and eight other relatives in a August 29, 2021 U.S. drone strike on his home, stands by the wreckage of a car destroyed in the strike in the courtyard of his house in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 14, 2021. /AFP

Newly obtained Pentagon documents show that the U.S. air wars in the Middle East have been marked by "deeply flawed intelligence" and resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, including many children, the New York Times reported Saturday.

It said a trove of confidential documents covering more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties undercuts the government's portrayal of a war fought with precision bombs.

Pledges of transparency and accountability, it said, had regularly fallen short.

"Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action," the paper reported in what it said was the first of a two-part series.

While several of the cases mentioned by the Times have been previously reported, it said its investigation showed that the number of civilian deaths had been "drastically undercounted," by at least several hundred.

Among three cases cited was a July 19, 2016, bombing by U.S. special forces of what were believed to be three ISIS staging areas in northern Syria. Initial reports indicated that 85 ISIS fighters were killed. Instead, the dead were 120 farmers and other villagers.

Sandals and other personal items collected after Kabul resident Aimal Ahmadi's 10 family members and other relatives are killed in a U.S. drone strike on his house on August 29, 2021. /AFP

Poor or inadequate surveillance footage often contributed to deadly targeting failures, the report said.

More recently, the United States had to retract its claim that a vehicle destroyed by a drone on a Kabul street in August had contained bombs. Victims of the strike, it turned out, were 10 members of a family, including children.

Asked for comment, Captain Bill Urban, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, told the NYT that "even with the best technology in the world, mistakes do happen, whether based on incomplete information or misinterpretation of the information available. And we try to learn from those mistakes.

"We work diligently to avoid such harm. We investigate each credible instance. And we regret each loss of innocent life."

In compiling its report, the NYT said its reporters had "visited more than 100 casualty sites and interviewed scores of surviving residents and current and former American officials."

The paper obtained the Pentagon documents through Freedom of Information requests beginning in March 2017 and lawsuits filed against the Defense Department and the Central Command. A new suit seeks records from Afghanistan.

(With input from AFP)


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