US military says it killed 23 civilians around the world in 2020

US military says it killed 23 civilians around the world in 2020
While the Pentagon report claims the US military killed 23 people unintentionally, NGOs say the figure is in fact much higher.
2 min read
03 June, 2021
The US military says it killed 23 people unintentionally in war zone areas. NGOs say the figure is much higher. [Getty]

The US military Wednesday took responsibility for unintentionally killing 23 civilians in foreign war zones in 2020, a death toll far below figures compiled by NGOs.

The tally included civilian fatalities in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria, according to the Pentagon report.

The US Department of Defense "assesses that there were approximately 23 civilians killed and approximately 10 civilians injured during 2020 as a result of US military operations," reads in part the document, an annual report required by Congress since 2018, even though parts of it remain secret.

Most of the civilian casualties were in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon said it was responsible for 20 deaths, according to the public section of the report.

One civilian was killed in Somalia in February 2020 and another in Iraq in March. The document released to the public does not specify when or where the 23rd victim was killed.

The document says that although Congress allocated $3 million to the Pentagon in 2020 for financial compensation to the families of civilian victims, no such compensation has been paid.

NGOs regularly publish much higher civilian death tolls in areas where the US military is active around the world.

The NGO Airwars, which lists civilian victims of air strikes, said that their most conservative estimates shows that 102 civilians were killed in US operations around the world, five times higher than the official Pentagon figures.

The United Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) counted 89 dead and 31 wounded in operations by US-led coalition forces, Airwars said.

In Somalia, where the Pentagon recognises only one civilian death, Airwars and other NGOs estimate the death toll at seven, while in Syria and Iraq local sources report six dead, the NGO said.

"It is clear that the Defense Department's investigations and acknowledgment of civilian harm remain woefully inadequate," said Hina Shamsi with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

"It is striking that in 2020, the Defense Department did not offer or make any amends payments to impacted civilians and families despite the availability of funds from Congress," said Shamsi, who heads the ACLU’s National Security Project.