A Pentagon investigation has determined that US troops did not commit war crimes or deliberately kill civilians in 2019 airstrikes in Syria that killed dozens of people, including women and children.
The strikes on Baghuz, where desperate ISIS fighters were holed up and making their final stand, killed at least four civilians, but were kept secret for years until they came to light last fall.
In the findings released on Tuesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that the military committed ‘policy compliance deficiencies’ in the aftermath of the airstrikes, but said that no one, including the ground force commander, was disciplined as a result of the strike. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who ordered a new review of the airstrike last November, said he was ‘disappointed’ with deficiencies in the handling of the initial review of the operation, which missed deadlines and led to delays in reporting to Congress and the public about civilian casualties.
‘The process contributed to a perception that the Department was not committed to transparency and was not taking the incident seriously – a perception that could have been prevented by a timely review and a clear explication of the circumstances surrounding the strike,’ Austin said in a memo released Tuesday.
The airstrikes in question were launched in support of Syrian allies who were under heavy fire from the Islamic State group near the town of Baghuz, in eastern Syria.
Called in by the secretive special operations group Task Force 9, the strikes were carried out by American F-15E attack jets that dropped one 500-pound bomb and two 2,000-pound bombs.
U.S. Central Command, which oversaw U.S. air operations in Syria, acknowledged the strikes for the first time in November 2021 and claimed they were justified.
In a statement to DailyMail.com at the time, Central Command said at that time that 80 people were killed in the strikes including 16 Islamic State fighters and four confirmed civilians, with the identity of the other casualties uncertain.
At a briefing on Tuesday, a Pentagon official amended that estimate and said that a total of 56 people were killed.
Of those, four were civilians and 52 were enemy combatants. The enemies included one child who had taken up arms, and the rest were adult males.