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US drone strikes killed thousands of civilians: report

Saim Dušan Inayatullah
December 19, 2021

Nobody was ever held responsible for strikes that killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and the Middle East, a New York Times report has found. A US strike cell routinely sidestepped safety procedures, it found.

A Yemeni stands in front of graffiti that depicts a US drone
US drones have killed thousands of civilians, according to a report in The New York TimesImage: Yahya Arhab/EPA/dpa/picture alliance

Newly obtained Pentagon documents show that US airstrikes have been marked by "deeply flawed intelligence" and resulted in thousands of civilian deaths in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

The documents show that many children were killed in the airstrikes.

"Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action," the paper reported.

According to the New York Times, fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made to victims and their families.

What did the report find?

In one case cited by the paper, US special forces claimed to have killed 85 "Islamic State" fighters in northern Syria. According to investigative reporting carried out by The New York Times, the dead were 120 villagers.

According to the report, a US strike cell known as Talon Anvil regularly sidestepped procedures meant to protect civilians in its bombing campaign against the "Islamic State."

In August, a New York Times investigation found that a Kabul airstrike had killed 10 members of a family. US officials said it had destroyed a vehicle that contained bombs, a claim that was later retracted.

How did the US air campaign begin?

The US air campaign took shape during the government of President Barack Obama, born out of public opposition to ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where thousands of American soldiers died. The US scaled back its ground presence and replaced it with an increased use of drone strikes. This campaign further intensified under President Donald Trump.

Obama called this the "most precise air campaign in history."

According to The New York Times, over a five-year period US forces carried out more than 50,000 strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The AFP news agency contributed to this article