The Slatest

Report: Trump’s Airstrikes Against ISIS Have Already Killed More Than 2,000 Civilians

Heavy smoke billows following an airstrike on the western frontline of Raqqa, Syria, on Monday, during an offensive by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to retake the city from ISIS.

AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, the Daily Beast and monitoring organization Airwars reported that nearly as many civilians have already died from coalition airstrikes against ISIS during the Trump administration as were killed in airstrikes during the entirety of the Obama administration. From the Daily Beast:

Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House—roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated—upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration.

The Coalition’s own confirmed casualty numbers—while much lower than other estimates—also show the same trend. Forty percent of the 603 civilians so far admitted killed by the alliance died in just the first four months of Trump’s presidency, the Coalition’s own data show.

Airwars journalist Samuel Oakford writes that the sharp increase in civilian casualties may be at least partially driven by Trump’s request early in the administration for a new plan to defeat ISIS that ostensibly included a review of the rules of engagement against the group. “In short, Trump was demanding that the Pentagon take a fresh look at protections for civilians on the battlefield except those specifically required by international law,” Oakford writes. “That represented a major shift from decades of U.S. military doctrine, which has generally made central the protection of civilians in war.” In May, Slate’s Fred Kaplan wrote that rising casualties could simply be attributable to Trump delegating more authority to officers on the ground:

Even before Mattis finished his report, Trump loosened controls on U.S. commanders in the field, letting them decide on their own whether to drop bombs on targets in populated areas. The “rules of engagement” weren’t changed, nor did commanders start ignoring the laws of warfare. But whereas President Obama would often rule on whether to bomb or refrain if there was some chance that an airstrike would kill civilians, Trump has let the officer in the field calculate the probabilities and decide whether they’re too high, or low enough, to order an attack.