The Pentagon failed to report thousands of U.S. airstrikes, report says
Thousands of deadly U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan went unreported by the Pentagon for years, according to a new investigation by the Military Times.
In 2016 alone, at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan were not reported to a public database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, the investigation found.
And the gap in data may not be new: The investigation raised the possibility that discrepancies in reporting could reach back as far as October 2001, when the U.S. launched its ill-fated War on Terror and invaded Afghanistan.
Gaps in reporting can be explained, in part, by quirks in CENTCOM’s data collection techniques, one military official familiar with the database told the Military Times. For example, the official noted that they don’t track strikes conducted by AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Those aircraft were used most notably in Afghanistan starting in 2001, during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and more recently, during the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
The discrepancy in airstrike reporting could have implications that stretch far beyond failed recordkeeping, the Military Times investigation suggests, potentially impacting decisions at the congressional level and among U.S. military allies.
Here’s why it matters:
- The information plays a role in shaping public perception of U.S. military actions abroad.
- Members of Congress, U.S. allies, and journalists are just some of the key parties that rely on accurate data from the Pentagon to make determinations and judgements about future military budgets and U.S. involvement in conflicts overseas, among other things.
- The potentially flawed data casts doubt on other statistics published by the Pentagon, like annual military expenditure and civilian casualties, which have been subject to scrutiny in the recent past.
The Military Times, a self-described “independent voice for everything military,” reviewed and compared airstrike data sets, and consulted anonymous sources familiar with CENTCOM’s data collection practices, to draw the conclusions of their investigation.
This is not the first time the U.S. military and its allies have faced hard questions about the accuracy of their reporting when it comes to civilian casualties, drone operations, or other military actions in the Middle East, but it may be one of the most glaring to date.
CENTCOM did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
Cover: (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)