A new investigation by Airwars for The Daily Beast has logged a massive escalation in civilian deaths caused by coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, as led by President Donald Trump's White House.
At least 2,200 civilians are estimated to have been killed up until July 13. That's over 360 a month since Trump's inauguration, or around 12 every day. By contrast, the Obama administration oversaw 2,300 civilian deaths in total over eight years.
(He was hardly a dovish president however – Obama's legacy includes vastly expanding the military's use of drones which, in 2016, dropped some of an estimated 26,171 bombs on targets in majority-Muslim countries around the world.)
One reason for this catastrophic surge is a change in tactics. After he became President, Trump ordered the formation of a new battle plan against ISIS. As part of that request, he asked for "recommended changes" to any rules of engagement protecting civilians that go further than the requirements of international law.
According to the report, this strip-down of protections for civilians in battle zones "represented a major shift from decades of U.S. military doctrine, which has generally made central the protection of civilians in war."
In March 2017, when General Mattis implemented his new plan, so began the increase in civilian deaths from airstrikes against ISIS. Even Coalition forces, which contest Airwars's numbers, concede that civilian fatalities have increased significantly. The administration have dismissed concerns raised by Commission of Inquiry for Syria from the United Nations, which in June pointed to a "staggering loss of life" as a result of the U.S.-led air strikes.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of the Syrian Network For Human Rights, said that he believes the United States "is seeking a quick victory” against ISIS, which "comes at the expense of accuracy, and therefore at the expense of the loss of more lives.”
Belkis Wille, an Iraq researcher for Human Rights Watch, said that for refugees, it is the American airstrikes that have caused them the most torment.
“Remarkably, when I interview families at camps who have just fled the fighting, the first thing they complain about is not the three horrific years they spent under ISIS, or the last months of no food or clean water, but the American airstrikes,” he said. “Many told me that they survived such hardship, and almost made it out with the families, only to lose all their loved ones in a strike before they had time to flee.”