The attack in Idlib, Syria, carried out by the MQ-9 Reaper, targeted an al Qaeda leader and senior planner, Captain Bill Urban said in a statement. The name of the target was not disclosed, although he said the attack on the leader would disrupt al Qaeda’s operations and their ability to plan attacks.
Initial assessment of the strike indicated the possibility of civilian casualties.
“We abhor the loss of innocent lives and take all possible measures to stop them,” Urban said. “The possibility of civilian casualties was self-reported immediately to US Central Command. We are conducting a full investigation into the allegations and will release the results as appropriate.”
In September, the military carried out another airstrike in northwestern Syria against a senior al Qaeda leader.
On November 17, Austin told reporters during a press conference that he was “committed to fine-tuning our policies and procedures to ensure that we improve” and that he would keep the Senior management is responsible for putting those policies into effect.
Austin said he believes “leaders in this department should be valued for their high standards of behavior and leadership.”
“And for my part as Secretary of Defense, I have every intention to uphold that standard,” Austin added.
There are currently two assessments regarding civilian casualties from US military air strikes.
The first was a civilian harm study conducted by the RAND Corporation that Congress ordered in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. The second study, also conducted by the RAND Corporation, focused on commerce. civilian casualties in Syria. Austin says it’s under security review.