London-based monitoring group Airwars has issued a new report on the US and coalition airstrikes against ISIS, faulting the US for its lack of transparency in the strikes, and in particularly the “opaque, ad hoc, and significantly biased” handling of reports of civilian casualties.
US figures on civilians killed in the air war in Iraq and Syria tend to be many months behind, and even then dramatically underreported, often ignoring or offering wild undercounts of incidents that were highly publicized at the time and well known.
The result of this is that the US has acknowledged a total of 173 civilian deaths in the course of the air war, with their figures starting in 2014 and going up to the summer of 2016. Airwars own monitoring has put the figure at a minimum of 1,500 civilians killed.
This is a huge difference, of course, but exactly how it got there isn’t hard to see, with the US refusing to carry out investigations into the vast majority of reports of civilian deaths, arguing that they don’t think the claims are “credible.”
A glaring recent incident was the July 18 airstrikes north of Manbij, Syria, in which the Syrian Observatory reported 56 civilians killed initially, and other groups later said the toll had risen to around 200. The US didn’t even mention the incident in their November report, but finally got around to it in December. Even then, their final report said “up to 24” were killed.
Back in July the US insisted they mistook the fleeing Manbij civilians for ISIS, and myriad other such incidents (like mistaking a granary full of grain for an ISIS headquarters) have been reported, but it is rare indeed for them to make their way into official government figures, and if they do, the final toll can be expected to have been shaved down to a bare minimum.