Department of Defense

Defense Department Releases 2021 Report on Civilian Casualties in Connection With United States Military Operations

By Hyemin Han
Tuesday, October 4, 2022, 5:12 PM

On Sept. 29, the Department of Defense reported 12 civilian deaths and approximately five civilian injuries in its Annual Report on Civilian Casualties in Connection With United States Military Operations. Deaths and injuries from three loci of U.S. military activity were included in the report: Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in Iraq and Syria, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, and U.S. Africa Command activity in Somalia. 

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan comprised the entirety of reported deaths for 2021, amounting to 12 killed and two injured, while the department reported no deaths and three injuries in Somalia. According to the report, there were no deaths or injuries in connection with U.S. military operations in Iraq or Syria, though it did update its estimate for the years 2018, 2019, and 2020 to include an additional 18 injured and 10 killed as a part of the Combined Joint Task Force OIR—an operation meant to counteract activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. made only one ex gratia payment: for the death of a civilian in an airstrike in Herat, Afghanistan on Jan. 8, 2021.

According to the report, only civilian casualties that can be attributed to the use of U.S.-operated weapons and only those that were assessable as “credible” were included. Credibility was defined as being “more likely than not that civilians were injured or killed as a result of U.S. military operations.”

The report also made a number of references to the Defense Department’s Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan released in August, which outlined 11 new objectives for the Defense Department to mitigate direct harm to civilians and their surrounding infrastructure, resources, and systems. The report stated that these new objectives were to be implemented in future operations, and that all operations included in the report were “conducted consistent with the best practices identified in Section 2 of Executive Order 13732,” which was instituted by former President Barack Obama in 2016. 

You can read the report here or below: