A recent report confirms the unintentional deaths of 105 civilians in June as a result of coalition operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a total that includes 77 deaths reported by Amnesty International, the deputy commander for strategy and support for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters today.
British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney spoke via teleconference from Baghdad, and addressed the report of civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria during June, which was published July 26.
“The coalition makes every effort to avoid civilian deaths on the battlefield and to minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure,” he said. “But the reality of the fight against ISIS and the brutality of this enemy has made it impossible to avoid a risk to the civilian population in the areas being liberated.”
He said he spoke on behalf of all coalition service members, from privates to the most senior leaders, when noting that “such tragic occurrences are deeply felt throughout our ranks and push us all to do all we can to minimize these instances.”
“We strive to ensure the safety of the civilians that we are here fighting to protect,” he added.
“We must also remember that the work of holding the coalition to account for our actions, an endeavor that we welcome and encourage, does not diminish the evil and brutality of the enemies we seek to defeat,” Gedney said.
Crimes against humanity and the violation of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict are ISIS’ routine modus operandi, the general told reporters.
“Those who live under their tyrannical rule endure a shocking level of violence to force conformity to a radical belief, a tactic which they sought to export across the world,” Gedney said of the terrorist organization. “And when faced by the superiority of the [Iraqi security forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces], ISIS has exploited the innocent, the unarmed and the weak as a means to slow down the forces determined and capable to defeat them.”
Coalition Works to Minimize Deaths
And as the U.S.-led coalition works to minimize the risk to noncombatants, ISIS is doing all it can “to maximize the number of innocent civilians killed,” he said.
Holding the coalition accountable for its actions in this war must be informed by facts and understanding, the deputy commander emphasized.
“We have said it many times, and it bears repeating: We work to make this campaign the most transparent in history, and we plan and execute our operations … to minimize our impact on the populations that we are fighting to protect,” he said.
Force allocations that are not grounded on readily available information do a grave disservice not only to the civilians who have had to live through the trauma induced by ISIS, but also to the countless service members from the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Iraqi security forces and the 26 troop-contributing nations are on the front line in the global fight against ISIS every day, Gedney said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)