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The American-led coalition in Iraq has significantly underreported the amount of civilian deaths that occurred as a result of airstrikes in the fight against the Islamic State, The New York Times Magazine reported Thursday. The investigation, which the magazine said was "the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq" since 2014, found that the rate of civilian death is 31 times higher than what the coalition has reported. That means that approximately 1 in 5 airstrikes results in the death of civilians, the magazine noted.
The coalition's internal reporting process relies mostly on video analysis and internal records of airstrikes to count civilian death, the magazine explained, and rarely takes into account external reports by watchdogs that use local news, social media, or open-source information. Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said that "U.S. and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes" and "are conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history."
In September, a watchdog group claimed that more civilians had been killed by coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during the first seven months of President Trump's administration than had died in total in the three years prior. In April, Trump announced that he'd given the military "total authorization" to make decisions in combat, which he claimed was why "they've been so successful lately."
Read more about the investigation — including the painstaking efforts that went into compiling the information — at The New York Times Magazine.