Air and drone strikes have killed at least 22,000 civilians – and perhaps as many as 48,000 – since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, according to a study published by Airwars, a civilian damage-tracking group Airwars.
20 years since 9/11, far-right terrorism is now the main threat in the US
The report, based on the US military’s own claim that they have carried out nearly 100,000 air strikes since 2001, is an attempt to estimate the number of civilian deaths in the multiple conflicts that are part of the “war on terror.”
The numbers, released just before the twentieth anniversary of September 11, comes at a time when US President Joe Biden has vowed to end the “eternal wars” that have marked the past two decades and in which US troops are have withdrawn from Afghanistan.
Since the beginning of his tenure, Biden has reduced the deployment of airstrikes amid a formal review of US drone policy and he has withdrawn from many of the interventions abroad that marked the terms of his three predecessors, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, since the 2001 attacks.
91,340 attacks in 20 years
Spanning attacks against ISIS in Syria, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as against militant and terrorist groups in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Libya, the United States has said it has carried out at least 91,340 attacks in 20 years – including 9,000 against ISIS–, according to the Airwars report.
Based on that total, Airwars has calculated that “the actions of the United States have probably killed at least 22,679 civilians, and that number could potentially rise to 48,308”.
According group researchIn 2003, the deadliest year in the last two decades for civilian casualties from US air strikes was 2003, when at least 5,529 civilian deaths were recorded, nearly all during the invasion of Iraq that year.
The second-highest fatality year was 2017, when at least 4,931 civilians are likely to have died, the vast majority in coalition bombings in Iraq and Syria.
However, if the highest estimates are taken into account, 2017 is shaping up to be the worst year for civilian casualties, with up to 19,623 dead, almost all in the bombing campaign against ISIS.
No official figures
The death toll from US airstrikes – Airwars acknowledges that it is imprecise – can be compared to the 387,000 civilians believed to have been killed by all sides during the “war on terror,” according to a study by the Brown University War Costs Program.
The problem of civilian casualties from airstrikes and other Western military activities during the “war on terror” has been a highly controversial issue, with the United States and its allies insisting that enormous efforts have been made to minimize deaths. and civilian injuries.
And, despite the broad umbrella of operations that the “war on terror” has encompassed, the United States – according to a statement published by the Pentagon – has never tried to calculate the total number of civilian deaths derived from the actions it supported.
In an email response, the Pentagon Central Command (Centcom) has told Airwars that it has no information on the total number of civilian deaths from air strikes. “The information they request is not immediately at hand in our office, since it involves various operations / campaigns in a period of 18 to 20 years,” Centcom has indicated.
Translation by Ignacio Rial-Schies