Speed Reads

Defense in Trouble

Pentagon hid civilian casualties in American warzones, Congress says

A pair of lawmakers sent a letter to the Pentagon on Monday criticizing the U.S. Department of Defense for allegedly undercounting civilian casualties in American warzones. 

The letter, obtained by Politicowas penned by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), and accused the Defense Department and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin of downplaying the number of deaths in its latest report to Congress. 

The department's report stated that approximately 12 civilians were killed and an additional five were injured during combat operations in 2021 in Somalia and Afghanistan. However, Warren and Jacobs wrote that the Pentagon did not include any civilian deaths in Syria "despite credible civilian casualty monitors documenting at least 15 civilian deaths and 17 civilian injuries" in the country. 

In addition, the letter claimed that the Pentagon's report "appeared to undercount additional civilian casualties from Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) that occurred prior to 2021."

As part of this mission, the Defense Department said that four civilians were killed and 15 more were injured as part of an airstrike in Syria in 2019. However, Warren and Jacobs cited an investigation by The New York Times which found the military "concealed the extent of the civilian casualties," with sources claiming at least 160 civilians died during the attack. 

"One reason for this underreporting appears to be that DoD is not giving appropriate weight to outside sources when investigating casualty reports," the letter said. "Moving forward it is also essential that the Department improve mechanisms for civilians to report civilian harm."