Brutal war has already seen 21,000 airstrikes and 70,000 ISIL fighters reported killed. But the cost for civilians has been high
[Airwars, May 2017]
(IMAGE: Aftermath of a reported Coalition strike on Al Haal market, Tabaqa, Syria April 21st 2017 (via Euphrates Post))
1,000 Days of War: Key milestone reached in Coalition’s deadly battle against Islamic State
At 2,45pm local Iraqi time on August 8th 2014, two United States F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil being operated by so-called Islamic State fighters. That attack marked the beginning of a major war which would draw in twelve other partners; spread to Syria and beyond; and which would lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of soldiers, militant fighters and civilians.
For 1,000 days the US-led Coalition has been bombing ISIL targets across Iraq and Syria. While the terror group has been pushed back heavily in both countries, the civilian toll has been significant. Some of the deadliest incidents and highest numbers of casualties have been observed in recent months, as parallel campaigns have unfolded in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and in Raqqa governorate – where Kurdish forces backed by Coalition airstrikes continue to pummel the city and surrounding towns.
To mark this significant milestone in the aerial campaign Airwars is publishing a series of articles written by its researchers, who between them have tracked almost 1,300 reported incidents of civilian deaths over 33 months. Though the Coalition has so far admitted to 352 civilian fatalities – and has taken steps to improve the quality of its own monitoring – this number is nearly ten times lower than Airwars’ own current minimum estimate of 3,294 civilians killed.
Our headline piece has the big numbers: the bombs dropped, the dollars spent, the enemy and friendly forces killed – and the civilians slain, injured and displaced by the violence.
Graph via RAND Corporation
In other reports our Baghdad-based researcher – who has visited the front lines in Mosul five times in recent months – explores why the battle for West Mosul has proved so harmful to civilians.
The head of the Airwars Syria team reflects on why coverage of Russian and Coalition actions has been so different – even as the civilian casualties inflicted by both parties has converged.
And our Amesterdam-based researcher describes the stark contrast between the bloody daily reports tracked from the battlefield, and the sterile, casualty-free war described by most Coalition partners.
Experts also offer their thoughts on 1,000 days of war. “Our goal is always for zero civilian casualties,” Colonel Joseph Scrocca of the US-led alliance tells Airwars. “Coalition forces comply with the law of armed conflict and take extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties.”
Yet Fadel Abdul Ghany of the Syrian Network for Human Rights is one of a number of monitors criticising the 1,000 day campaign. “By not identifying who in the Coalition forces is committing the massacres in Syria, and not offering frank and clear apologies or starting to compensate the victims, it is implied that there are no consequences to such flagrant violations. This has given the military command a green light, promoting a culture where there is no real interest in taking careful decisions or carrying out serious investigations,” he argues.
Airwars will also be marking the 1,000th day strongly on social media – for example tweeting out all 93 confirmed Coalition civilian casualty events over a 24 hour period.
“This long, grinding war has seen so-called Islamic State routed from much of its territory and we are perhaps now entering the final stage,” says Airwars Director Chris Woods. “Yet the cost to civilians in both Iraq and Syria grows steadily worse, with thousands so far killed. This 1,000th day of the campaign offers an opportunity for reflection on what has been achieved – and at what cost.”
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Our small team of professional staff and volunteers tracked more than 300 alleged Coalition and Russian civilian casualty events in April – a new record. Yet since 2014 we’ve spent less than the price of a couple of bombs holding belligerents to account for their actions. Every dollar, euro or pound you can spare goes towards employing specialist researchers to improve our tracking and assessments.