Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Tuesday that neither the commander of the ground forces nor anyone involved in the airstrikes had acted “inappropriately or with malicious intent” or “intentionally wanted to kill civilians.”
Kirby emphasized transparency in the U.S. investigation and review of the strike, and said that the Pentagon would use that information to prevent future civilian casualties. “We acknowledge that, yes, we killed some innocent civilians, women and children in Baghdad, Syria in 2019. This is for you to see. We acknowledge that we made those mistakes. That our operation ended in the killing of innocent people.”
The review found that there were some issues that led to delays in reporting civilian casualties within the military, including miss deadlines and incomplete information that hindered the full assessment. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was “disappointed” to learn of the problems, Kirby said.
Austin ordered a review of the Baghdad Strike in late November, appointing General Michael Garrett, the four-star commander of the U.S. Army Force Command.
According to a statement from Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, on March 18, 2019, U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces called for air support when they were attacked by ISIS forces. U.S. and coalition forces surrounded the last ISIS holdout in Baghdad, Syria, but in the last days of the war, ISIS launched its own counter-attack.
A nearby F-15 fighter jet dropped three 500-pound precision-guided bombs to aid the SDF. Hours after the attack, Urban said the UAV operator reported potential civilians in the area at the time of the bombing.
A military investigation launched after the Syrian offensive found that they had carried out a “legitimate self-defense operation” in support of the SDF, which killed “at least” 16 ISIS fighters, Urban said. At least four civilians were killed and eight others were injured in what became known as the Cold War.
On Tuesday, Kirby said a review of the strike had found that a total of 73 people had been killed, including 52 enemy fighters. All but one of them were adult males and one of the warriors was a child. Two enemy fighters were wounded in the operation. Four civilians, including a woman and three children, were killed in the attack. Fifteen other civilians, including 11 women and four children, were injured.
“No one needed to be personally responsible for what happened that day,” Kirby said. “Informed [the ground forces commander] At that point, he made the best decision in the midst of the war, in the middle of the war, in a concentrated part of Syrian territory, against a very determined enemy, who was fighting our SDF counterparts very, very aggressively. “
“You can make the best decisions in war. Do you fix it every time? No. And it’s sad for all of us.”