A new investigation shows that President Donald Trump's bombing campaign against ISIS (the Islamic State) over several months has already led to nearly as many civilian deaths as those overseen by the Obama White House over several years.
According to an Airwars investigation conducted for The Daily Beast, at least 2,300 civilians were killed by coalition strikes from 2015 until the end of Obama's term earlier this year. But as of July 13, roughly six months into Trump's presidency, over 2,200 civilians have likely died from coalition strikes.
That translates to roughly 80 civilian casualties each month in Iraq and Syria during the Obama White House; during Trump's short tenure in the White House, it's been roughly 360 per month.
Samuel Oakford writes. "Airwars estimates that the minimum approximate number of civilian deaths from Coalition attacks will have doubled under Trump's leadership within his first six months in office."
The reason for the trend may be attributed to the result of new war plan to defeat ISIS. It includes a shift to what Secretary of Defense James "Mad Dog" Mattis called "annihilation tactics" to defeat ISIS fighters and the president's having "delegated authority to the right level to aggressively and in a timely manner move against enemy vulnerabilities."
In March, the "month after Mattis delivered the new plan, U.S.-led forces likely killed more civilians than in the first 12 months of Coalition strikes—combined," Oakford writes.
Mattis argues that there have been no changes to the rules of engagement. Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, pushed back, telling Airwars: "There is a tremendous disconnect between what we've heard from senior military officials who are saying there has been no change in the rules of engagement and clearly what we are seeing on the ground."
Human rights watchdogs, the U.N.-appointed Commission of Inquiry for Syria and Amnesty International among them, have been concerned about the increase in civilian casualties.
Top Coalition commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend has shot back against their accusations. "Show me some evidence of that," he said, referring to U.N. investigator Paulo Pinheiro's statement that the U.S.-led coalition is responsible for a "staggering loss of civilian life" in Raqqa, Syria. To Amnesty's claim that the coalition is linked to "relentless unlawful attacks" on civilians in west Mosul, Iraq, Townsend said, "I would challenge the people from Amnesty International, or anyone else out there who makes these charges, to first research their facts and make sure they're speaking from a position of authority."
Arguing about whether or not there was a change in the rules of engagement is not helpful, said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch, to Airwars. "The bottom line is more civilians are dying. Whatever the reason, that should concern the U.S. greatly," she said.