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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.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Trump's war with his generals

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Axios' "Off the Rails" series documents the end of the Trump administration, from election night 2020 through the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

One important piece is only now beginning to emerge: Former President Donald Trump's last-minute bid to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan and swaths of the Middle East, Africa and even Europe ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration — and why he blinked.

John McEntee, one of Donald Trump's most-favored aides, handed retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor a piece of paper with a few notes scribbled on it. He explained: "This is what the president wants you to do."

1. Get us out of Afghanistan.

2. Get us out of Iraq and Syria.

3. Complete the withdrawal from Germany.

4. Get us out of Africa.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.