In­quiry blames blun­ders be­hind botched airstrikes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in Wash­ing­ton

A US mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tion has con­cluded that a se­ries of “un­in­ten­tional hu­man er­rors” led to a Sept 17 coali­tion airstrike that killed fight­ers aligned with the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment in­stead of the tar­geted Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

The strike, which Moscow said killed more than 60 Syr­ian sol­diers, prompted an emer­gency United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing as ten­sions be­tween Rus­sia and the United States spiked.

Bri­gadier Gen­eral Richard Coe, who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, told reporters at the Pen­tagon on Tues­day that the ma­jor er­rors ranged from a ba­sic misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion of tar­gets to “group think” dur­ing in­tel­li­gence de­vel­op­ment and even a com­mu­ni­ca­tions blunder on a hot­line with Rus­sia.

Coe de­fended the coali­tion per­son­nel in­volved, say­ing they were “good peo­ple try­ing to do the right thing”. “Th­ese peo­ple get it right far more of­ten than not, but this time they came up short,” Coe said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion threw light on the dif­fi­cult and dan- ger­ous work of de­vel­op­ing tar­gets for coali­tion airstrikes against Is­lamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria where the United States does not have ground forces or re­li­able in­for­mants within the pop­u­la­tion to en­sure its in­tel­li­gence is sound.

Not wear­ing uni­forms

The US-led coali­tion mis­took Syr­ian-aligned forces for Is­lamic State fight­ers in part be­cause they were not wear­ing tra­di­tional uni­forms, Coe said. An early mis­take — misiden­ti­fy­ing a ve­hi­cle as be­long­ing to Is­lamic State — col­ored in­tel­li­gence that came later when it drove into a larger fight­ing po­si­tion near Deir al-Zor air­port.

The strikes in­cluded air­craft from the US, United King­dom, Aus­tralia and Den­mark, which dropped 34 pre­ci­sion-guided weapons and fired 380 rounds of 30-mil­lime­ter am­mu­ni­tion.

The mis­takes con­tin­ued even af­ter the strike be­gan.

Moscow had reached out re­peat­edly through a hot­line to the US-led coali­tion, try­ing to in­form them that they were strik­ing Syr­ian gov­ern­ment tar­gets in­stead of Is­lamic State.

But the des­ig­nated US mil­i­tary point-of-con­tact was un­avail­able for 27 min­utes. In those 27 min­utes, 15 of the strikes took place against what the US-led coali­tion be­lieved were Is­lamic State fight­ers.

“This was ob­vi­ously a missed op­por­tu­nity to be able to limit the dam­age of the mis­take,” Coe said, adding that the strikes would have con­tin­ued had the Rus­sians not called and even­tu­ally passed along their in­for­ma­tion.

No dis­ci­plinary ac­tion was ex­pected against those in­volved, Pen­tagon said.

Th­ese peo­ple get it right far more of­ten than not, but this time they came up short.” Richard Coe, US bri­gadier gen­eral who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.