Airwars: bearing witness in Iraq, Libya and Yemen

Summary: we conclude our look at the Airwars 2020 Report on civilian harm caused by air and artillery attacks with Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Last week with the release of  the Airwars Annual Report 2020 we looked at civilian casualties caused by air and artillery attacks in Syria. Today we consider casualties in Iraq and Libya and the damage caused by the US counter-terrorism campaign in Yemen.

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1 thought on “Airwars: bearing witness in Iraq, Libya and Yemen”

  1. While Mr Trump loosened the rules on airstrikes, Mr Obama did likewise:
    “It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
    “Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.
    “This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
    “But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.
    “It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.” (
    The apparent shift from military to CIA lead may reflect a larger policy shift, from COIN to conventional (force on force) operations. In early December 2020 (ie under Mr Trump) it was reported that “Trump Officials Reviewing DOD Support To CIA” (
    “The idea is to determine whether Defense Department personnel “detailed” to the spy agency should instead be used for missions related to competition with Russia and China, rather than counterterrorism, According to multiple former and current administration and military officials.”
    Nevertheless, the NYT carried a report on Monday “Remote C.I.A. Base in the Sahara Steadily Grows”. (

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