US military opens investigation after possible civilian casualties in Syria attack on al Qaeda leader

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.

The admission of potential civilian casualties and the immediate opening of an investigation came after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a review of an attack in Syria in March 2019, which the Pentagon only recently admitted killed civilians.
In mid-November, US Central Command acknowledged for the first time that previously undisclosed air strikes in Syria were carried out days before the fall of ISIS in 2019. kill many civilians, including women and children.
That disclosure followed publication a New York Times investigation into strikes.

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.

US officials see humanitarian effort in Syria as another way to fight ISIS

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.

But the Ministry of Defense has yet to hold anyone responsible a drone attack on August 29 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of which 10 civilians, including 7 children, were killed. An Air Force review of the attack found that there were significant flaws but no violations of the law, including the laws of war.

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.


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