June 2 (UPI) — The Defense Department, in a report published Wednesday, cites 23 civilians killed, and 10 injured, during U.S. military action in 2020.
The unclassified, 21-page “Annual Report on Civilian Casualties in Connection with United States Military Operations” is a requirement by Congress that includes explanations that avoiding harm to civilians “is the moral and ethical thing to do.”
The report defines theaters of active armed combat, and limits them, for 2020, to action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Nigeria.
The report notes that the U.S. military is “steadfastly committed to limiting harm to civilians.”
It also advises that a “body count” would “not necessarily provide a meaningful measure of the military success of an operation.”
Additional details about deaths and injuries prior to 2020 are also listed, inflating the figures past those announced as 2020 casualties of war. The report does not include civilians killed by hostile forces.
It cites 50 prior deaths and 22 prior injuries among Iraqi and Syrian citizens in Operation Inherent Resolve and related military actions, and 20 deaths and five injuries of civilians in the Freedom’s Sentinel campaign in Afghanistan.
Twelve civilians, including instances dating to 2017, died in Yemen, and the report cites one civilian killed, and five injured, in Somalia. No reports of civilian casualties were reported in 2020 related to U.S. military actions in Nigeria.
The accounting compares to 2019 figures, which listed 132 civilian deaths and 91 civilian injuries.
A January 2020 Defense Department memorandum said that “preventing civilian casualties has long been a U.S. priority and, in that sense, our efforts are a proud continuation of longstanding practice.”
“In recent conflicts, our forces not only complied with the law of war, but also demonstrated true expertise in the conduct of hostilities by accomplishing their missions while minimizing civilian casualties,” the memo said.
The memo cites a need for transparency, regular review and “condolences, including ex gratia payments, where appropriate, to civilians who are injured or to the families of civilians who are killed.”