The Defense Department said in a report Thursday that U.S. military operations killed 120 civilians in 2018.
The annual report, mandated by Congress, said 42 civilians were killed in Iraq and Syria, 76 in Afghanistan and two in Somalia. Sixty-five people were injured in those countries.
The Pentagon said it found no “credible reports” of civilian casualties caused by U.S. forces in Libya or Yemen.
“All DoD operations in 2018 were conducted in accordance with law of war requirements, including law of war protections for civilians, such as the fundamental principles of distinction and proportionality and the requirement to take feasible precautions in planning and conducting attacks to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and other persons and objects protected from being made the object of an attack,” the Pentagon said in its report.
The 2017 report did not include a final tally of civilian deaths.
Outside watchdog groups say the Pentagon severely undercounts the number of civilians killed. Prominent monitor Airwars, which tracks the war against ISIS, says U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria alone killed 805 civilians last year.
“The administration failed to comply with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements in a clear effort to conceal from the American public the true toll of its lethal strikes abroad,” Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in a statement. “These numbers simply are not credible. As the Trump administration doubles down on the secrecy of its killing of civilians abroad, Congress needs to continue exercising its oversight power. The civilian victims, their families, and the American public deserve greater transparency and accountability.”
President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE in March ended an Obama-era requirement to report on the number of people killed outside of traditional war zones in places like Libya, Somalia and Pakistan. The Trump administration cited duplication with the Defense Department's report, which Congress mandated in an annual defense policy bill last year.
The report ended by Trump included a tally of those killed in drone strikes carried out by the CIA, while the Pentagon's congressionally mandated report does not measure those casualties.
The 42 civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria last year were a sharp drop from the 793 killed in 2017, according to Pentagon figures. The previous year's higher death toll was because of “significant military action” in the fights for Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, the report said.
Meanwhile, the Somalia death toll in the report reflects the two civilian deaths first acknowledged in early April by U.S. Africa Command.
In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition fighting in the civil war that is supported by the U.S. military has been blamed for thousands of civilian deaths, but the Pentagon report only looked at U.S. military actions against ISIS and al Qaeda in Yemen.
The Afghanistan death toll is significantly lower than the more than 1,000 reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The Pentagon report said that is because UNAMA relies on a different methodology and “simply lacks access to all the information relevant to assessing whether civilian casualties resulted from U.S. military actions in any particular instance.”
While the report said there were no credible reports of casualties in Libya, it also said the military continues to assess one report from November.