News & Investigations

News & Investigations

Published

August 18, 2021

Written by

Joe Dyke

Focus will now turn to whether UK, France and Belgium will finally admit culpability

When the Department of Defense withdrew a key part of its annual report on civilian harm earlier this month, it all but confirmed something long suspected – that France, Britain and Belgium know they likely killed civilians in Iraq and Syria in specific events, but refuse publicly to accept it.

The original Pentagon report to Congress, released on May 28th, initially claimed responsibility for the deaths of 50 civilians in eleven airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria in 2017 and 2018.

After Airwars pointed out significant errors, the DoD withdrew and reissued the report along with an addendum, removing nine of the eleven incidents in which civilians died. This amounted to the Pentagon’s effective confirmation that those strikes were carried out by its allies, including the UK, France and Belgium.

Of these nine incidents, two were in fact the same event – seemingly a clerical error. Two more have been publicly claimed already by Australia, which has accepted responsibility for the deaths.

That leaves six events in which the Coalition’s own investigators concluded that 18 civilians had died.

What are the six strikes?

Three of them were British airstrikes. We knew this before due to in-depth reporting by Airwars and the BBC but the Pentagon’s withdrawal of the data all but confirms it.

In the most deadly individual case, on August 13th 2017, 12 civilians were killed, including a young girl, in an airstrike targeting an ISIS mortar system. A further six were injured. In February 2019 the US-led Coalition accepted that civilians were killed and the UK later confirmed it was a British strike – yet without accepting anyone died.

In a second case, the Coalition publicly confirmed the deaths of two civilians in a strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul on January 9th 2017. Again the UK confirmed it was a British strike but without accepting that civilians were killed. This contradicted a Coalition whistleblower, who earlier told the BBC that civilians had likely died in the British attack.

The third British incident occurred in Bahrah in eastern Syria on January 20th 2018. The Coalition’s military assessors admitted the death of one civilian. The BBC and Airwars published an investigation showing it was a British strike and the UK accepted this, but again refused to accept responsibility for any civilian harm.

The reason for the gap between the Coalition and British statements is that London applies a different – and critics would say unrealistic – standard for assessing civilian harm. Whereas the Coalition and the US assess whether they caused civilian harm on the ‘balance of probabilities’, the UK demands overwhelming evidence – described as ‘hard facts.’ In the context of an airstrike from thousands of feet and with no Coalition civilian casualty investigation forces on the ground, such overwhelming proof is near impossible to come by.

To date, the UK has accepted just one civilian death in Iraq and Syria, despite 8,000 declared flight sorties over seven years.

Gavin Crowden, Executive Director of Every Casualty Counts, said that when it came to civilian harm, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was pretending the “absence of evidence is evidence of absence.”

“The Pentagon has shattered the MoD’s already implausible claim that British forces have caused only one civilian death across Iraq and Syria. This is statistically almost impossible.”

“The [Chilcot] Report of the Iraq Inquiry made clear that the MoD had failed to account for civilian casualties following the invasion in 2003. Almost twenty years on, the MoD is still failing to take even basic steps to identify and record harm caused to civilians.”

French and Belgian strikes

The other three incidents the Pentagon insists were not US actions are believed to be either Belgian or French strikes.

On February 27th 2017 a Coalition strike on an ISIS vehicle near the Iraqi-Syrian border killed at least one civilian and injured another. Local sources said the death toll could have been as high as three. The Coalition accepted causing the harm, and a senior Belgian government official unofficially informed Airwars that the strike was Belgian, though the government has never publicly confirmed this.

On March 21st 2017 a civilian was killed in a Coalition strike in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Again a senior government official unofficially informed Airwars that the strike was Belgian, though the government has never publicly confirmed this.

The final incident, which took place on February 8th 2018, killed one civilian near Al-Bahrah village in Syria. Airwars identified it as a likely French strike, though Paris has always publicly refused to comment.

To date, neither France nor Belgium has publicly accepted killing any civilians in years of bombing Iraq and Syria.

Marc Garlasco, a military advisor for PAX and a former US senior Department of Defense intelligence analyst, said the Pentagon errors would increase pressure on European militaries to stop hiding behind the anonymity of the Coalition.

In 2015 a devastating strike in the town of Hawijah in Iraq led to the deaths of more than 70 civilians. The Coalition eventually accepted responsibility, but no member state did. It was only in 2019, after investigative reporting, that the Dutch government finally admitted responsibility.

“It is time for European MoDs to stop hiding behind American statistics and take responsibility for the harm they cause and provide appropriate amends,” Garlasco said.

“One central issue for civilians is the problem coalition warfare causes for strike attribution, and therefore amends. Too often we have seen war victims unable to make claims or even get answers for why they were targeted because they just don’t know who dropped the bombs. It is unreasonable to put the onus of proof on the victim.”

He pointed out that in the wake of the Hawijah massacre the Dutch Ministry of Defence has opened a review of its civilian harm mitigation policies, working alongside organisations like PAX and Airwars.

“We see a real opportunity in the wake of the lessons we have learned by working with the Dutch MoD. There are now positive examples to follow if Belgium, France, the UK, and any other military intends to take civilian harm seriously.”

Every Casualty Count’s Gavin Crowden said the US civilian casualty monitoring process, though far from perfect, was a clear example for other countries to follow. So far the US has admitted killing more than 1,300 civilians in the war against ISIS.

“If European militaries claim they can fire smart missiles straight into the bedroom of a specific target, they should surely be able to compile basic data about where and when they have conducted operations that may have harmed civilians.”

“The US has shown that this is both logistically, militarily and politically possible. Therefore, we have to conclude that the obstacle among European militaries is simply a lack of will.”

Airwars asked the British, French and Belgian militaries for comment on the Pentagon’s report. None said they intended to review their earlier assessments of no civilian harm, in light of the DoD revelations.

▲ File footage: A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels a British Tornado fighter over Iraq, Dec. 22, 2015. Coalition forces fly daily missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

Incident Code

TI065

Incident date

August 17, 2021

Location

قرية سكينة, Medical center in the village of Sakina, Nineveh, Iraq

Airwars assessment

At least eight people were killed, including four members of the medical staff at a hospital and four fighters of the Sinjar Resistance Units who were receiving treatment at  a hospital, and four others were injured in alleged Turkish strikes on Al-Askiniyah Hospital in the village of Sakina in Sinjar district on August 17, 2021.

Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firatê published that “according to the statement of the Autonomous Administration Council in Sinjar, the attack resulted in the death of at least 8 people and the injury of 4 others. Among the martyrs were 4 fighters of the Sinjar Resistance Units who were receiving treatment in the hospital, in addition to the martyrdom of 4 members of the medical staff in the hospital who were serving the Yazidi community.” An image posted on Facebook shows that a baby was among those injured.

The names of those killed in the bombing are: Hamid Saadoun (Qiran Siba), a fighter of the Sinjar Resistance Units; Khader Sharaf (Bir Khader), a fighter of the Sinjar Resistance Units; Rami Al-Salem (Ronny), a fighter of the Sinjar Resistance Units, from the Arab component of the people of the Ba’aj region; Maytum Khader Khalaf (Sarhad Zammar), a fighter of the Sinjar Resistance Units; Ali Rasho Khader, from the medical staff; Saadu Elias Rasho, from the medical staff; Hajji Khader, from the medical staff; Mukhlisat Sidar, from the medical staff.

A report from the PKK identified Mukhlisat Sidar as being a doctor in the medical facility and added that he “had come to Sinjar in  2014 as a medical volunteer from North Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) to help provide medical  treatment for the local population during the IS attacks.”

An activist from Singer told Independent Arabia that “today’s operation came to complete the attack launched by Turkish planes yesterday in Sinjar, which killed three people from the Sinjar Protection Units and wounded two others.” The activist added that the two wounded, one of whom is a leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, were taken to this hospital for treatment.

A statement from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) pointed out that the initial strike was against “an Ezidi diplomatic delegation on its way to a meeting with Iraqi government officials on August 16”.  The reported added that “five members of a diplomatic delegation representing our  Democratic Autonomous Council of Sinjar (MXDŞ) were targeted by a Turkish air strike while  driving through the center of Sinjar city. Two members of the delegation, Seîd Hesen and Îsa  Xwedêda, were killed in the attack while Medya Qasim Simo, Şamir Abbas Berces and Mîrza  Alî were wounded.”

An Iraqi security source told Al-Ain News that “Turkish warplanes bombed this afternoon the military hospital of the Sinjar Protection Forces, which is located in the village of Al-Sakina, south of the district, in Nineveh Governorate. The Turkish aircraft deliberately targeted the building and made any attempts to evacuate those sleeping in it.”

According to the PKK report, the hospital that was bombed had been treating many civilian patients, including COVID patients, at the time of the attack and that “the hospital in the village of Sikêniyê – a former school building – had been established in  2016 after the liberation of the village by the Kurdish guerrilla and YBŞ/YJŞ forces. Ever since,  it had been run solely with the resources provided by the local population and the MXDŞ. It  had been used both by the civilian population of Sinjar and members of the YBŞ/YJŞ”.

“The hospital was subjected to three raids with drones that destroyed the entire building,” said Jalal Khalaf Basso, deputy mayor of Sinjar, to Agence France-Presse. A report from the PKK recalled that “after the first air strike had hit the hospital and  had wounded several people, civilians and Iraqi soldiers from a nearby military base who were  rushing to the scene to help were targeted by three more air strikes.”. All of the sources that reported on the incident attributed the strikes to Turkey.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

  • Hamid Saadoun (Qiran Siba) Age unknown male a fighter of the Shingal Resistance Units killed
  • Khader Sharaf (Bir Khader) Age unknown male a fighter of the Shingal Resistance Units killed
  • Rami Al-Salem (Ronny) Age unknown male a fighter of the Shingal Resistance Units, from the Arab component of the people of the Ba’aj region. killed
  • Maytum Khader Khalaf (Sarhad Zammar) Age unknown male a fighter of the Shingal Resistance Units killed
  • Ali Rasho Khader Age unknown from the medical staff killed
  • Saadu Elias Rasho Age unknown from the medical staff killed
  • Hajji Khader, Age unknown from the medical staff killed
  • Mukhlisat Sidar Age unknown from the medical staff killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Iraqi militias (PMUs)

Sources (21) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

  • Victims of the bombing of a medical center in the village of Sakina (Image posted by ANF)
  • Image of Hamed Saadoun (with his wife), who was killed in alleged Turkish bombing of Al-Askiniyah Hospital on August 17, 2021. (Image posted by Shingal Sinjar my city on Facebook)
  • Four of the people that were killed at a medical facility on August 17, 2021. (Image posted by Shingal Sinjar my city)
  • Image of Khidr Sharaf, Ali Rasho Khidr, and Hajji Khidr, killed in strikes on a medical facility on August 17, 2021. (Image posted by Shingal Sinjar my city)
  • A baby injured in the strikes on the medical facility in the village of Sakina on August 17, 2021. (Image posted by Shingal Sinjar my city)
  • Image of Hamed Saadoun, who was killed in alleged Turkish bombing of Al-Askiniyah Hospital on August 17, 2021. (Image posted by Shingal Sinjar my city on Facebook)
  • Image of a car destroyed in the initial strikes by Turkish forces that killed three Sinjar Protection Forces personnel and injured two others. (Image posted by Shafaq News)
  • Image of a car destroyed in the initial strikes by Turkish forces that killed three Sinjar Protection Forces personnel and injured two others. (Image posted by Irq women via Facebook)
  • Hassan Saeed, commander of the 80th Brigade, was killed the day before in a strike along with two others and another two personnel were injured. The injured were receiving treatment at the hospital when the Turkish launched another strike and killed four military personnel. (Image posted by Murad Sheikh Kalou)
  • Image of a car destroyed in the initial strikes by Turkish forces that killed three Sinjar Protection Forces personnel and injured two others. (Image posted by Kurdistan Workers' Party)
  • Before and after photos of the Mt. Shengal clinic that was allegedly bombed by Turkish forces on August 17, 2021.

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Iraqi militias (PMUs)

Sources (21) [ collapse]

Published

August 10, 2021

Written by

Joe Dyke

Allied nations almost certainly killed them. So why did the Defense Department tell Congress that the US was responsible?

This article was originally published by The Intercept on August 5th 2021.

The Defense Department has been forced to withdraw a key part of an official report to Congress, after wrongly claiming responsibility for killing 21 civilians in Iraq and Syria who were actually slain by close US allies.

The Pentagon was alerted to the mistake in June by Airwars, which had previously documented most of the strikes as being carried out by other partner nations in the US-led Coalition against the Islamic State, including the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

After reviewing the findings, the Defense Department finally admitted the error on August 5th.

“This was an oversight in preparing data for the report,” Pentagon spokesperson Mike Howard said, without giving further details on how the error had occurred. “We regret the mistake.”

The revelations will add to growing concern over the Pentagon’s civilian harm policies, after senior Democrats recently accused the Pentagon of underestimating the number of civilians killed in its latest annual report to Congress and criticized the US military’s failure to pay out a single dollar in compensation to victims’ families during 2020.

“You have to wonder what is going on at the Defense Department and [U.S. Central Command] that they can’t even get right this basic obligation to report civilian harm to Congress and to the public accurately and reliably,” Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Intercept. “This only compounds our concerns about underlying issues such as investigations into civilian harm, in which DOD does not even talk to surviving family members for information.”

“Only US casualties”

The Department of Defense’s latest annual report documenting civilians killed and injured by US actions globally was released on May 28th. The report, in which the Defense Department must inform Congress of all officially recognized civilian harm caused by the US military, has been a legal requirement since 2018.

In the latest report, the Pentagon admitted to killing 23 civilians worldwide during 2020, though monitors such as the United Nations in Afghanistan have shown the real figure is likely many times higher.

The report also incorrectly acknowledged responsibility for 50 historical civilian deaths in 11 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria between January 2017 and February 2018. The Pentagon at first said the incidents had “inadvertently” not been included in reports in previous years, but most were in fact carried out by allied nations.

While the campaign against ISIS was fought by a coalition of mostly Western nations, the report explicitly stated that it “only lists civilian casualties attributed to the use of U.S.-operated weapons,” meaning no strikes conducted by allied aircraft should have been included.

The Intercept and Airwars cross-checked these incidents against public records and found that of the 11, nine were not carried out by the US at all.

The May Defense Department report to Congress claimed responsibility for the deaths of 50 additional civilians in Iraq and Syria in 2017-2018, of whom only 28 were actually killed by US strikes. Source: US Department of Defense, May 2021.

Most of those incidents had been highlighted in a major investigation last year by Airwars, the BBC, Libération, De Morgen and RTL Netherlands, which concluded that European countries were systematically failing to accept causing civilian harm, even when U.S. military assessors declared otherwise.

The addendum released by the Defense Department on August 5th removed nine of the 11 incidents in which the US acknowledged killing civilians in its earlier report.

Two of the incidents for which the Pentagon claimed as US actions had, for example, already been admitted by the Australian Defence Force, which had taken full responsibility for killing the civilians.

In one of those airstrikes, two civilians were killed and two hurt in Mosul, Iraq, on May 3rd 2017. That event was publicly conceded by the ADF more than three years ago, with an official statement at the time saying: “On 3 May 2017, one Australian aircraft conducted an airstrike in support of Iraqi Security Forces who were under direct fire from enemy fighters in West Mosul. … Based on a review of information now available, it is possible that civilian casualties may have occurred as a result of this strike.”

The UK had explicitly claimed responsibility for carrying out between three and four further strikes on the list, and a senior Belgian official had unofficially acknowledged that country’s responsibility for two other attacks.

Among the British incidents was the killing of 12 civilians in the Syrian city of Raqqa on August 13th 2017. The Coalition officially confirmed it had killed the civilians while targeting an ISIS mortar system; the UK later admitted to carrying out the strike, saying Royal Air Force fighter jets targeted “a mortar team in a building at the location given” during clashes between ISIS and Western-backed Kurdish forces.

Among the victims locally named that day were Walid Awad Al Qus and his young daughter Limar.

A ninth event, which killed one civilian in Al Bahrah in Syria in February 2018, was found by Airwars and Libération to have likely been attributable to the French military. Despite the findings, neither the UK, Belgium, nor France has publicly admitted to killing civilians in any of these strikes.

Airwars highlighted the errors to the US Defense Department in early June; the Pentagon then took two months to send an official correction to the report to Congress. That addendum offered no detailed explanation for the mistake.

“The text and table in the report provided in May 2021 … should be omitted and replaced because only two of the eleven incidents on the original table were ‘attributed to the use of U.S.-operated weapons,’” the text of the addendum states.

CENTCOM under scrutiny 

The US arguably has the world’s most advanced mechanisms for monitoring the civilian harm caused by its own military actions across the globe.

During the seven-year campaign against ISIS, the US military has admitted killing more than 1,300 civilians. While monitors like Airwars put the real figure far higher, other militaries barely accept any responsibility for civilian harm: France has not admitted to killing a single civilian, and the UK has acknowledged responsibility for just one civilian death since 2014.

The great majority of deaths from US military actions occur within US Central Command’s area of responsibility, which includes Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. In recent years, CENTCOM has faced rising concerns about poor management of its civilian harm monitoring and reporting processes.

CENTCOM declined to comment on whether the error in the recent report to Congress had originated with its own personnel, referring questions back to the Department of Defense.

More forgetfulness on Yemen

While publicly claiming responsibility for the deaths of civilians it didn’t in fact harm, CENTCOM has also once again forgotten some of those it did.

In November 2020, following a major Airwars study of US military actions in Yemen under President Donald Trump, CENTCOM officially admitted injuring two civilians during an airstrike in September 2017.

This was only the second time the US had ever publicly admitted specific civilian harm as a result of its airstrikes and raids in Yemen, which date back to 2002.

But that confirmed event was not included in the most recent report to Congress, and no explanation has been given for its omission.

This marked the second time in the past year that CENTCOM has apparently forgotten recent civilian harm it caused in Yemen. In November, it blamed an “administrative mistake” after saying only that it “may” have killed civilians during a botched raid in Yemen in January 2017. At the time, CENTCOM’s own commander, Gen. Joseph Votel, had told the US Senate he took personal responsibility for the deaths of “between four and 12” civilians in that attack.

Bonyan Gamal from the Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana said such errors are “painful for the families” of those injured or killed.

The recent Pentagon civilian harm report did however confirm one new case in Yemen after an investigation by Mwatana: The US admitted that it had targeted and killed an elderly Yemeni man in a 2019 airstrike. To date, no compensation has been paid or offered, and Gamal said the families of victims want justice.

“When we received the confirmation of civilian harm we contacted the family,” Gamal said. “When I spoke to them they asked ‘OK and now what?’ If there are no steps after an acknowledgment and not even an apology then what is the use for this?”

▲ Aftermath of alleged US-led Coalition airstrikes on Hajin on November 10th, 2018 (via Euphrates Post).

Published

August 10, 2021

Written by

Joe Dyke

Despite less than two per cent of Coalition strikes taking place since the fall of Baghouz, civilian casualties persist

This article was originally published by The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft on August 8th 2021.

For the little media coverage it receives these days, you might be forgiven for believing the US-led coalition’s war in Syria and Iraq to be over. Osama Al-Hamid’s family knows better. Last month, the young boy died during reported fighting between Washington’s local Syrian allies and the Islamic State, in which US airstrikes hit the building he was in. Osama was the latest of thousands of alleged victims of coalition strikes.

August 8th marked seven years since the international coalition, led by the United States, began its concerted bombing campaign against the Islamic State, the terrorist group that by 2014 had seized much of northern Iraq and Syria. Since then, the coalition has declared 34,987 strikes against the Islamist group. Today, ISIS has been reduced from a de facto state controlling territory roughly the size of Britain on either side of the Iraqi-Syrian border, to a few disparate cells living in hiding and conducting occasional terror attacks.

The final piece of ISIS territory, the town of Baghouz in eastern Syria, was recaptured in April 2019. Since then, the intensity of the international campaign has dropped dramatically. Only 483 strikes, or less than two percent of the war’s total, have taken place in the last two years.

The civilian toll has also dropped sharply. Of the 1,417 civilians the Operation Inherent Resolve, or OIR Coalition, has officially admitted killing since 2014, only one has occurred since Baghouz fell.

Airwars puts the real figures of civilians killed by coalition strikes far higher — at between 8,317 and 13,190 likely fatalities between 2014 and today. And since April 2019, between 57 and 112 civilians have been likely killed, the watchdog believes.

Yet despite the near destruction of ISIS, the coalition remains in place, even as President Joe Biden’s administration withdraws from Afghanistan, and claims to be looking to end the “forever wars.” The United States retains an estimated 900 troops in Syria and a further 2,500 in Iraq. Other nations have also seemingly increased the intensity of their involvement in the campaign in recent months. Of the 44 confirmed OIR airstrikes against the Islamic State this year, more than half were French or British. Belgium, which resumed its own involvement in the war in October 2020, has provided no data on its own recent strikes.

No perfect exit

Seven years on, and with most of the war’s objectives seemingly achieved, what is to become of the anti-ISIS Coalition?

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for the Coalition to remain concerned.

Thousands of family members of ISIS militants, including those with British, French, and other citizenships, remain stuck in vast prisons in northern Syria, including the infamous Al-Hol camp near Hassakeh. With some countries unwilling to repatriate their nationals, violence in the camps remains a concern and there are fears the conditions could serve to radicalize a new generation of ISIS.

Outside the camps, fears of an ISIS resurgence remain, with periodic claims of their influence increasing. Recently, reports circulated that ISIS cells were forcing villagers in one part of eastern Syria to pay them money or face punishment. The US’s allies in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces, may not be able to cope without continued Western military support.

The Coalition is also yet to tackle its historic legacy, with rights groups and family members still seeking recompense for the thousands of civilians killed by its own actions. A recent report by Agence France Presse interviewed victims of the single worst disaster, when a U.S. strike killed more than 100 civilians in the Iraqi city of Mosul in March 2017, and found they were still waiting for compensation.

So there are arguments that supporters of the Coalition mission may may make in favour of staying. But bear in mind that just because it is not in the media that doesn’t make it a cost-free exercise — either financially for the US and partners, or for Syrian and Iraqi civilians.

Data from Airwars’ annual report shows conflicts across the Middle East were less violent in 2020

Last month, Osama Al-Hamid — who looks perhaps four or five in the images posted online of him — tragically died. The exact circumstances of his death, in Kharbet Al Janous near Hassakeh in northern Syria on July 21st, are disputed. What is clear is that the United States carried out two airstrikes against alleged ISIS members while supporting the SDF. Somewhere along the way Hamid was killed. The Coalition’s spokesman said the child was being “held captive” by ISIS, but provided no evidence for the claim.

The intensity of Syria’s civil war more generally has dipped significantly in recent years. Airwars data shows that the number of civilians reported killed last year was roughly a third of the tally during 2019. And as the level of violence decreases, so the questions that leaders have to ask themselves shift.

With US, Russian, Turkish, Iranian and other forces seemingly becoming permanent fixtures in Syria, the potential for fatal miscalculation remains. And with no clear long-term strategy currently being articulated by the Biden administration, there remains a risk of another grinding conflict with no end in sight.

In Iraq, the US-led coalition often found itself fighting alongside Iranian-backed militias during the height of the campaign against ISIS. Yet since the Caliphate’s decline, some of those same groups have begun turning their ire on US bases, particularly as tensions with Tehran again escalate. In another echo of the earlier US-UK occupation of Iraq, Shia politicians from across the spectrum increasingly call on the Americans to leave.

When President Obama withdrew from Iraq in 2011 at the insistence of the Iraqi government, he later faced allegations that his purported hasty exit helped lead to the emergence of ISIS. Biden will be wary of repeating the mistake. But he is also perhaps learning from Afghanistan that there is no perfect time to end a war. Maintaining the coalition in perpetuity in Iraq and Syria, against an elusive foe, brings with it a risk of a new forever war.

▲ US soldiers make their way to an oil production facility to meet with its management team, in Syria, Oct. 27, 2020. (Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jensen Guillory)

Incident Code

TI064

Incident date

July 30, 2021

Location

قرية سنكسر, Sinksar village, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq

Airwars assessment

At least two civilians were killed in alleged Turkish airstrikes on the village of Sinksar on July 30, 2021.

Mawazin News reported that the director of the Snaksar district in Sulaymaniyah, Nehru Abdullah, said in a press statement “During the past 24 hours, Turkish planes bombed the Qandil Mountains and the surrounding villages in search of PKK fighters, killing two civilians who were on a motorbike in the Sinksar area of Bashdar district in the Raparin district administration. Abdullah added, “It is not known to which side the two victims belonged so far, and we could not verify the matter due to fears of repeated bombing”.

24 AE also quoted Abdullah as saying that “civilians are worried and terrified as a result of the repeated bombing of Turkish planes, which is causing the burning of forests and farms in villages.”

Firat News Agency also reported that two people were killed on a motorcycle in the bombing and that “Turkish planes have been bombing the slopes of Mount Qandil for more than 24 hours”.

All of the sources that reported on the incident attributed the strikes to Turkish planes.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces

Sources (6) [ collapse]

French MoD for July 20, 2021 – July 26, 2021
Original
Annotated

Report Date

July 26, 2021

PROCHE MOYEN-ORIENT – CHAMMAL

SITUATION MILITAIRE DU THÉÂTRE

L’opération CHAMMAL, volet français de l’opération INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), se poursuit et les Armées restent résolument engagées dans leur lutte contre Daech, car l’organisation terroriste est entrée dans un combat en réseau, clandestin en dissimulant ses capacités.

La France apporte par ailleurs une action de conseil auprès des forces de sécurité irakiennes afin de contribuer à leur montée en puissance. Au sein du JOCAT (Joint Operations Command Advisory Team), structure conseillant le commandement interarmées des opérations irakien, plusieurs officiers français insérés apportent leurs compétences dans des domaines variés (renseignement, feux, opérations terrestres et aériennes).

ACTIVITÉ DE LA FORCE

Transfert d’autorité entre les Senior national representative de niveau opératif (SNR-O)
Arrivé en juillet 2020 sur le théâtre syro-irakien, le général de brigade aérienne Dominique Tardif a assuré pendant un an la fonction de SNR-O pour l’opération CHAMMAL, participation française à la coalition internationale Inherent Resolve (OIR). Cette fonction comporte plusieurs responsabilités : commander les Français engagés dans l’opération CHAMMAL, garantir le bon emploi des moyens français au Levant et assurer la fonction de directeur du Directorate of interagency and civilian environment (DICE), structure en charge de coordonner les opérations militaires avec les activités civiles au sein de l’opération INHERENT RESOLVE. Il a transféré ses responsabilités au général de brigade aérienne Vincent Coste. La cérémonie s’est déroulée sur le camp Arifjan au Koweït, en présence de madame Anne-Claire Legendre, ambassadrice de France au Koweït.

French MoD for July 13, 2021 – July 19, 2021
Original
Annotated

Report Date

July 19, 2021

PROCHE MOYEN-ORIENT – CHAMMAL

SITUATION MILITAIRE DU THÉÂTRE

L’opération CHAMMAL, volet français de l’opération INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), se poursuit et les Armées restent résolument engagées dans leur lutte contre Daech, car l’organisation terroriste reste très présente menant un combat en réseau, clandestin en dissimulant ses capacités.

La France apporte par ailleurs une action de conseil auprès des forces de sécurité irakiennes afin de contribuer à leur montée en puissance. Au sein du JOCAT (Joint Operations Command Advisory Team), structure conseillant le commandement interarmées des opérations irakien, plusieurs officiers français insérés apportent leurs compétences dans des domaines variés (renseignement, feux, opérations terrestres et aériennes).

French MoD for July 6, 2021 – July 12, 2021
Original
Annotated

Report Date

July 12, 2021

SITUATION MILITAIRE DU THÉÂTRE

L’opération CHAMMAL, volet français de l’opération INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), se poursuit et les Armées restent résolument engagées dans leur lutte contre Daech, car l’organisation terroriste est entrée dans un combat en réseau, clandestin en dissimulant ses capacités.

ACTIVITÉ DE LA FORCE

Fin de mandat pour le National representative français au Qatar

Après six mois passés en tant que National representative (NR) des militaires français d’Al-Udeid, au Qatar, le colonel Fabien, de l’armée de l’Air et de l’Espace, a succédé au colonel Jean Charles.

Le rôle du  NR est de s’assurer que les moyens aériens français engagés dans l’opération INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR) sont employés au niveau correspondant à leur pleine capacité et que les missions confiées respectent les directives d’emploi fixées par le niveau stratégique français. Enfin, il assure l’interface entre le directeur du Centre de commandement interallié pour les opérations aériennes (CAOC) et le commandement militaire français, notamment le Senior national representative de niveau opératif (SNR-O) et le Centre de planification et de conduite des opérations (CPCO).

Le Forbin en patrouille dans le canal de Syrie.
La Frégate de défense aérienne (FDA) Forbin, actuellement déployée en Méditerranée orientale (MEDOR), poursuit ses patrouilles dans le canal de Syrie afin de fournir en tout temps une appréciation autonome de la situation dans cette zone.

La mission de la FDA Forbin, dans une attitude impartiale constante, consiste à observer les mouvements et les interactions des différents acteurs de la zone MEDOR mais également de conduire des entraînements avec certains d’entre eux. Ainsi, le 8 juillet, un hélicoptère de l’armée de l’Air chypriote a effectué une séance d’entraînement au poser sur la plate-forme hélicoptère de la frégate française.