Warren calls for Senate probe of 2019 Syrian airstrike that killed dozens of civilians

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is seen during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing to discuss oversight of the CARES Act within the Federal Reserve and Department of Treasury on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called Friday for the Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate a 2019 airstrike in Baghuz, Syria, that killed 70 people, including dozens of women and children.

In a letter to panel Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Warren called for the committee to “immediately launch” a formal inquiry into the strike, which was first reported by The New York Times on Saturday.

According to the Times, the strike was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents in the war against the Islamic State, but had never been publicly acknowledged. 

“The Senate Armed Services Committee must seek answers about this strike and its aftermath and hold anyone found to be in violation of law or established procedures to account,” wrote Warren, who is a member of the panel.

The airstrike took place on March 18, 2019, according to the Times, which investigated the incident based on confidential documents, classified reports and interviews with personnel who were directly involved.

The newspaper reported that top military officers and civilian officials tried to hide the casualties. A lawyer for the Air Force flagged the strike as a potential war crime, but a thorough investigation never happened.

U.S. Central Command confirmed on Tuesday that the strike killed multiple civilians. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been briefed on the strike by U.S. Central Command head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who oversaw the strike, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.

Warren said the panel should “compel testimony” from officials who had authority over the strike and any subsequent investigations that followed it.

She also called for the panel to investigate the legal justifications of the strike, the civilian harm that it caused and military’s response to the reported casualties.

The Hill has reached out to the committee and the Department of Defense for comment. 

Warren’s letter comes as the Pentagon embarks on two reviews probing how it conducts airstrikes and possible harm to civilians. 

Updated 6:04 p.m.

Tags Elizabeth Warren Jack Reed John Kirby Lloyd Austin Syria

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