Nov 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Pentagon to probe 2019 Syria strike after reports of dozens of civilian casualties

Photo of Lloyd Austin speaking at a security event
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Nov. 20. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a new investigation into a 2019 U.S. airstrike that killed around 80 people, including dozens of women and children in Syria, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The move comes after the Times reported this month that the Pentagon attempted to keep the strike and casualties under wraps, failing to investigate the decision behind it even after questions were raised internally.

  • A legal officer alerted the military that the bombing was a possible war crime, but defense officials took steps to conceal the strike and its impact. An inquiry by the Defense Department's inspector general ended with a stalled report that did not make note of the strike, the Times found.

Details: The new probe will examine civilian casualties, review the documentation and reporting process for such strikes and look into whether anyone should be held accountable for the deaths.

  • It will also determine whether the strike violated the laws of war.
  • Gen. Michael X. Garrett, who leads the Army's Forces Command and was not involved in the decision to launch the strike, will be in charge of the investigation. He will have 90 days to complete the inquiry.
  • It's unclear why Austin waited until now to order the investigation. The Pentagon and Department of Defense did not immediately return Axios' request for comment.

Worth noting: The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have also said they are investigating the strike, per the Times.

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