The Obama Administration has made a habit of dramatically underreporting civilian deaths in its assorted military operations around the world, but took things to a whole new level in what will presumably be their last such document, claiming only one civilian killed all year in US drone strikes “worldwide.”
The report, which Obama requires by executive order, nominally for the sake of transparency, claims a massive decrease from the number of civilians killed the year prior in drone strikes, and managed to achieve this by deliberately excluding the overwhelming majority of the US drone strikes carried out in 2016 from the report’s definition of “worldwide.” Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are not counted.
The brief report insists any information to contradict the one civilian dead claim is “propaganda,” and insists that no reputable NGO is actually disputing the US assessment in this regard. Of course, no reputable NGO would exclude the places where the US is conducting the most drone strikes from a report on US drone strikes.
There are numerous reports that point to how much higher the real number is, however. In April, a US drone killed 17 civilians in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, and killed another 13 in Nangarhar Province in September.
The most recent incident was in mid-December, when a US drone participating in Iraq’s invasion of the city of Mosul destroyed a house full of civilians, killing a family of nine. These of course are all just a fraction of the hundreds of civilians killed in US airstrikes over the course of 2016, but in many cases it remains uncertain if the strike was a drone or a manned aircraft, and similar systematic under-reporting of deaths by Centcom makes such determinations all but impossible.