( Middle East Monitor ) – The United States could have done more to eliminate the chances of killing civilians in the campaign to capture the city of Raqqa in northern Syria three years ago, a newly-released report by the RAND Corporation has stated.
The report released on Thursday acknowledged the impact of the US-led coalition’s assault to take the city from the terror group Daesh in 2017, “Raqqa endured the most structural damage by density of any city in Syria.”
That structural damage consisted of the destruction or impairment of 11,000 buildings between February and October 2017, including over 40 schools, 29 mosques, eight hospitals, five universities, and Raqqa’s irrigation system.
The RAND report also cited statistics by Amnesty International, the site Airwars, and the coalition itself which showed the significant number of civilian casualties that occurred as a result of the campaign. Between 6 June and 30 October 2017, the killed civilians numbered from approximately 744 to 1,600.
By the end of the battle to take the city, according to the report, “60 to 80 per cent” of it was “uninhabitable.” There was also significant resentment of the population towards Washington and its local Kurdish allies, with the huge structural damage and civilian casualties having “undermined…long-term US interests” in the region.
The report concluded that the US did not commit war crimes, however, arguing that the military attempted to respect international laws regarding the protection of civilians in wartime. There was “room for improvement,” though, with the report recommending that the US military – in the future – should be prepared to send more ground troops or forces into the field in order to gain better situational awareness and engagement, instead of simply relying on airstrikes with inevitable gaps in intelligence.
The RAND Corporation’s report and its conclusion that no war crimes were directly committed comes months after the Pentagon announced that it was launching an investigation into an airstrike and bombing raid on the Syrian town of Baghuz in 2019, the last major battle to oust Daesh from its strongholds in the country. That New York Times newspaper reported that the results of that strike, which killed at least 80 civilians, was underplayed by the US military in an attempt to conceal war crimes.
Via Middle East Monitor )