Pentagon chief orders new investigation into US airstrike that killed dozens in Syria

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Monday ordered a new high-level investigation into a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that kille...


Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Monday ordered a new high-level investigation into a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of women and children, according to a senior Defense Department official.

The investigation by General Michael X. Garrett, the four-star chief of the Army Forces Command, will examine Strike, which was carried out by a secret and classified special operations unit called Task Force 9, as well as the management of the task force’s investigation by senior military headquarters and the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, has declared the responsible.

General Garrett will have 90 days to review previous investigations into the episode, and further investigate reports of civilian casualties, whether violations of the laws of war have occurred, errors in record keeping, if recommendations from previous reviews have been implemented and whether anyone should be held accountable, said the official, who requested anonymity because the investigation had not been announced.

The Pentagon is expected to announce the new investigation on Monday after notifying Congress. The House and Senate armed services committees said they were investigating the episode.

Mr. Austin’s decision comes in the wake of a New York Times investigation earlier this month, which described allegations that senior officers and civilian officials sought to cover up the victims.

At a press conference two weeks ago, Mr. Austin promised to revise military procedures and holding senior officers accountable for damage to civilians, but he failed to highlight the systemic issues that would have allowed civilian casualties to persist on the battlefields in Syria and Afghanistan.

The airstrike in Syria, which took place near the city of Baghuz on March 18, 2019, as part of the final battle against Islamic State fighters in a shard of a once-sprawling religious state in Iraq and Syria. It was one of the most significant casualties of the multi-year war against ISIS, but the US military had never publicly acknowledged it.

The classified task force investigated the strike and admitted that four civilians were killed, but it also concluded that there had been no wrongdoing on the part of the special operations unit. In October 2019, the task force sent its findings to central command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

But Central Command officials did not follow through and did not remind a subordinate military headquarters in Baghdad to do so, in what Captain Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, described as ” an administrative oversight “. As a result, senior military officials in Iraq and Florida never examined the strike, and the investigation technically remained open until the Times investigation.

Mr Austin, who became Secretary of Defense this year, received a confidential briefing earlier this month on the strike and the handling of it by the Army from General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., chief of the central command of the army, which oversaw the air warfare. in Syria.

The Times investigation showed that the death toll from the strike – 80 people – was almost immediately apparent to military officials. A lawyer flagged the bombing as a possible war crime that needed investigation. But at almost every step, the military took action that masked the catastrophic strike. The independent Inspector General of the Defense Ministry opened an investigation, but the report containing his findings was blocked and stripped of any mention of the strike.

In an email this spring to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the lawyer who witnessed the strike warned that “senior US military officials have intentionally and systematically bypassed the deliberate strike process,” and that he There was a good chance that “the highest levels of government were unaware of what was going on on the ground.”

Armed Services Committee spokesperson Chip Unruh said the panel “remains actively engaged and continues to examine the matter.” Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state who heads the House Armed Services Committee, announced earlier this month that his panel would also investigate the strike and the military’s handling of it.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Pentagon chief orders new investigation into US airstrike that killed dozens in Syria
Pentagon chief orders new investigation into US airstrike that killed dozens in Syria
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