Pentagon Orders Probe of 2019 Airstrikes in Syria That Killed Dozens
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered an investigation into the US military airstrike in eastern Syria that killed dozens of civilians, including women and children, and fighters for the Islamic State or ISIS. Gen. Michael Garrett, the commander of US Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., will head the probe, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby announced on Monday.
Garrett will determine whether the strike was legal, whether proper procedures were followed before and after the airstrike, and whether initial reviews of the incident were conducted properly. He has 90 days in which to file a report with Austin.
A New York Times investigation, citing anonymous sources and classified documents, published earlier this month that the US military covered up the airstrikes, that had been ordered by a classified special forces task force that was conducting ground operations in the area. The report noted that the attack could amount to a possible war crime. The military tried to conceal the strikes by Task Force 9, downplayed the death toll and “delayed, sanitized and classified” reports about the airstrikes, according to the Times. The US Central Command in response to the report said that the airstrikes were “legitimate self-defense,” proportional, and that “appropriate steps were taken to rule out the presence of civilians.”
The probe comes on the heels of an investigation completed earlier this month that concluded that there was no misconduct in an Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians.