Pentagon Downplays Civilian Casualty Numbers in US Wars for 2020

Airwars says the lowest estimates put the number of civilians killed by the US military in 2020 across five conflict zones at 102, US only admits to 23

In its annual report to Congress on civilian casualties in US military operations, the Pentagon admitted to killing at least 23 civilians in 2020, but the actual figure is much higher.

In 2020, the Pentagon said its forces killed 23 civilians and wounded 10 more in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. The majority of the civilians were killed in Afghanistan. In January and February, The Pentagon admitted to killing 20 Afghan civilians before the US-Taliban peace deal was signed at the end of February.

The monitoring group Airwars says the lowest public estimates put the number of civilians killed by the US in five conflict zones in 2020 at 102, almost five times higher than what the Pentagon admits.

The Pentagon has a history of reporting lower civilian deaths than what it has actually caused. In Somalia, US Africa Command almost always reports no civilian deaths. But in the rare case that reporters or humanitarian organizations get to the scene of a US airstrike, they have a much different story to tell.

The Pentagon admitted to one civilian death in Somalia for 2020. Airwars said the lowest estimates for Somalia suggest that at minimum, seven civilians were killed in Somalia by the US military in 2020.

Pressure from Airwars and other groups has forced the Pentagon to admit to civilian deaths from previous years. In the report, the Pentagon added 65 deaths for 2017 to 2019, mostly in Syria in Yemen.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.