WASHINGTON (Middle East Eye) - Two U.S. lawmakers have urged the U.S. Department of Defense to overhaul how the military tracks civilian casualties, arguing that the Pentagon is undercounting the number of non-combatants killed in war zones.
The U.S. military reported last month that it was responsible for unintentionally killing 23 civilians in foreign war zones in 2020, far below figures compiled by non-governmental agencies. But it also acknowledged more civilian deaths from previous years.
The tally included civilian fatalities from operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria, according to a Pentagon report.
Most of the civilian casualties were in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon said it was responsible for 20 deaths, according to the public section of the report.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Ro Khanna wrote in a letter published that was written on 30 June that the Department’s admission of civilian deaths and injuries was a fraction of the figures compiled by independent monitors and the UN.
“The Department reported 23 civilians killed and 10 civilians injured as a result of U.S. military operations last year, but estimates from credible civilian casualty monitors and the United Nations suggest that number is almost five times higher.”
The letter called for the Pentagon to account for these discrepancies, adding that “U.S. military investigations into civilian casualties give greater weight to external sources of information rather than relying solely on its own internal records and sources when assessing third party reports of civilian harm”.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s report on civilian casualties is part of an annual report required by Congress since 2018 - although parts of it remain secret.
One civilian was killed in Somalia in February 2020 and another in Iraq in March. The document released to the public does not specify when or where the 23rd victim was killed.
The document also said that, although Congress allocated $3m to the Pentagon in 2020 for financial compensation to the families of civilian victims, no such compensation had been paid.