Thursday, November 26, 2015

US air bombing and civilians

"However, the larger concern with this mindset is the assured growth of collateral damage and civilian casualties that will accompany significantly loosened ROEs. Last month, Lt. Gen. Bob Otto, the U.S. Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, observed that the coalition was “challenged in finding enough targets that the airplanes can hit that meet the rules of engagement.” However, he added an important caveat: “If you inadvertently — legally — kill innocent men, women, and children, then there’s a backlash from that. And so we might kill three and create 10 terrorists.”
There was a revealing indicator made public last week of just how challenging it is for pilots to prevent civilian harm while conducting “dynamic targeting” strikes — meaning against unplanned and unanticipated targets in a compressed timeline — despite all the checks and balances in place. Late on Friday, Centcom issued a press release that summarized the findings and recommendations of an investigation into an attack of an Islamic State checkpoint on March 13, near Hatra, Iraq, which “likely resulted in the deaths of four non-combatants” even though “all reasonable measures were taken to avoid unintended deaths of or injuries to non-combatants by reviewing the targets thoroughly prior to engagement.” This was only the second time, in 16 months of bombing, that the command has acknowledged civilian harm; the other being in May when Centcom published an investigation of a November 2014 strike against the so-called Khorasan Group that “likely led to the deaths of two non-combatant children.” In other words, everybody within the command structure, including the pilot of the A-10, did what they were trained to do, and four civilians were still unintentionally killed at an Iraqi checkpoint....The report ultimately reaches the critical conclusion, “The NCV [Non-Combat Victims] = 0 objective was not met,” (bold included in original), but then fully redacts the details of the “three execution errors leading to this objective not being met.” The reader can only wonder what those errors were or what corrective steps were implemented to ensure that they were not made again. Interestingly, the identity of the sender of the April 2 email was never determined, and there was no further communication from her. Thus, no financial compensation was ever offered for her destroyed Kia Sorrento nor was any given to the families of the four civilians killed. Who knows if any of the Iraqis impacted by the civilian casualties became more sympathetic to the Islamic State or felt alienated by coalition airstrikes?"