The Pentagon concludes that no law was broken in the 2019 Syrian strike that killed civilians

A Pentagon investigation into the 2019 U.S. military airstrikes in Bugs, Syria, concluded that the U.S. military did not violate any law of war.

The March 18, 2019 strike was launched to assist Syrian partner forces attacked by an ISIS terrorist group near Bugs.

The Pentagon concluded that the strike killed civilians, including women and children, but the US military did not knowingly cause casualties.

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that no one, including the commander of the ground forces, had been disciplined for the operation.

However, investigations revealed that the military made a procedural error in the aftermath of the airstrikes.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a memo (pdfOn Tuesday, he announced that he was “disappointed” in handling the strike’s first investigation, which delayed reporting to Congress about civilian casualties.

“This process contributed to the recognition that the department was not committed to transparency and did not take the case seriously. It was prevented by timely reviews and clear explanations of the circumstances surrounding the strike. It’s recognition, “Austin said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that Austin’s memo “showed five clear steps that leaders expect to take to avoid such delays in the future.”

This issue was published after the New York Times published a report on the incident on November 15, 2021. Austin then ordered Army General Michael Garrett, now head of the U.S. Army General Army, to carry out a separate and independent review of the Bugs strike, which began about two weeks after the report.

In his investigation, Garrett agreed with the conclusion of the first investigation that it was a legitimate self-defense move to support Syrian partner forces.

According to Garrett’s investigation, a total of 73 casualties were recorded. 52 enemies were killed, 2 were injured, 4 civilians were killed, and 15 were injured.

Of the civilians, one woman and three children were killed and 11 women and four children were injured. One of the enemies killed was a child.

“The U.S. Army Commander (GFC) in charge of support has verified ISIS’s hostile conduct / intention, repeatedly received confirmation that there are no civilians in the strike area, and approved support for aerial strikes.” Garrett wrote about the incident (pdf). “Unknown to the GFC, civilians are within explosive limits, and as a result, [civilian casualty].. “

Garrett said the commander of the ground forces “did not intentionally or unknowingly cause civilian casualties.”

Kirby said on Tuesday: Garrett discovered that the commander of the ground forces made the best possible decision, given the information at the time, because it was so deadly and very offensive. [ISIS] Threat in very limited space. I am very sorry … I apologize for losing my innocent life. “

Austin ordered the U.S. Department of Defense in January to develop a new “Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan” to prevent and respond to civilian casualties from US air strikes. I did.

The move took place after a US drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021, killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children. An independent review later that year concluded that the strike was not caused by illegal activity or negligence. It was discovered in the process of identifying and identifying communication failures and bombing targets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mimi Nguyen Lee


Mimi Nguyen Ly is an Australian-based journalist.