Fewer than two weeks after the Pentagon announced Nov. 3 that it found no misconduct in a review drone strike on Kabul that mistakenly killed 10 civilians, the New York Times reported that a similar, never-before-publicized strike on ISIS in Baghouz, Syria, had targeted a group of women and children and killed 70 civilians. Now, that strike is getting its own review.
Army Gen. Michael X. Garrett, head of Army Forces Command, has 90 days to review not only the strike itself, but how its results were investigated and briefed up the chain of command, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday. Garrett held the top job at Army Central Command until 10 days before the March 18, 2019, strike.
“He will review the reports of investigation already conducted into that incident and will conduct further inquiry into the facts and circumstances related to it,” Kirby said, including the civilian casualties, compliance with the law of war, reporting procedures, whether lessons learned in previous investigations were implemented, whether discipline is recommended for those involved and whether any policies or procedures need an update as a result.
The original inspector general investigation into the Baghouz strike “was stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike,” the New York Times reported, a timeline Garrett will have to recreate as part of his review.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the review following a Nov. 17 briefing, in which he mentioned both an internal and external review on U.S. airstrikes and civilian casualties. One is an annual requirement from Congress, while another is a Rand Corp. project on airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, also during operations against ISIS.
“The American people deserve to know that we take this issue very seriously. And that we are committed to protecting civilians and getting this right both in terms of how we execute missions on their behalf and how we talk about them afterwards,” Austin said at the time. “And I recognize that and I’m committed to doing this in full partnership with our military leaders.”