The Department of Defense sent Congress its annual report on Civilian Casualties in connection with U.S. Military Operations around the globe. This report is required under the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
In 2019, 132 civilians were killed and 91 were injured during U.S. Military operations in the countries of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. No casualties were identified from Yemen or Libya.
The report emphasizes that U.S. forces make every effort to reduce harm that its operations may have on civilians. In all phases of planning to operations, targets are routinely evaluated to minimize any potential for civilian casualties.
“Over the past 19 years, we, alongside our allies and partners, have fought to protect our homeland, liberate millions of people from tyranny and safeguard civilians from terrorism,” said James Anderson, who is performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for policy.
“While our forces have taken unprecedented steps to prevent civilian suffering in these conflicts, we recognize that U.S. military operations, at times, inadvertently injure and kill innocent civilians. It is a sobering fact that we take very seriously.”
The DOD evaluates all reports of civilian casualties, from individuals present during the operation including military personnel, local civilians, non-governmental sources, news media and social media.
During 2019 the DOD made 611 payments, responding to property damage, personal injury or death determined to have been related to U.S. military operations in foreign countries. The U.S. does not have liability or obligation to provide these “ex gratia” payments, which are designed to express condolences, sympathy or good will, paving the way to support mission objectives.
Payments are one option that DOD takes when U.S. military operations kill or injure a civilian or otherwise damage or destroy civilian property. Other options include providing medical care or other measures consistent with any mission objectives under applicable law, the report said.
“The U.S. military has long sought to go beyond our legal requirements, to further protect civilians through a variety of practices. However, we will not be complacent — there is more that we can and should do,” Anderson said.