The Pentagon Monday disputed both the methodology and conclusion of an independent review that said a dozen civilians a day were dying as a result of coalition airstrikes that were backing up Iraqi forces on the ground.
The review done by Airwars, a watchdog group that monitors both official and anecdotal reports of civilians deaths, says that 80 civilians were killed per month under the Obama administration in Iraq and Syria, and the number has jumped to 360 per month, or 12 or more a day, under President Trump. The story was posted Monday morning on the Daily Beast.
"I would encourage all to take with a grain of salt when they see these reports, that profess to have a knowledge of civilian casualties," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. "I think there are well-meaning people and organizations and reporters who will look at reports that they see on social media, and ascribe truth to them, without taking the time to cross reference where we have struck."
On its website, the group call itself a "journalist-led transparency project," and says it is "advocating on behalf of affected civilians" by archiving both "open-source reports, and military claims by nations."
"At Airwars we archive every public pronouncement by allies in the Coalition — updated daily and cross-referenced against claims of civilian casualties and ‘friendly fire' deaths," the group says.
The latest report from U.S. Central Command says from the time the war started in August 2014, until May 2017, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 724, of which 145 have been confirmed to be a result of coalition airstrikes.
The Pentagon says it is true that as the battle against the Islamic State turned into deadly, dangerous urban combat, where civilians were held hostage by the terror group, the number of civilian deaths increased.
"We have had two active military operations going on in two large cities, the two capitals of ISIS at the same time, Mosul and Raqqa, both of them in dense urban terrain," Davis said.
U.S. commanders insist they have conducted the most precise bombing campaign in the history of modern warfare, and while their goal is zero civilian casualties, it's not possible when you are fighting a ruthless dug-in enemy who deliberately puts civilians in the line of fire and uses them as human shields.
"We apply rigorous standards to our targeting process, we take extraordinary efforts to protect noncombatants, we do this in accordance with the law of armed conflict, and our own values," Davis said.
Central Command says after more than 46,000 engagements in which weapons were released, less than one-third of 1 percent resulted in a credible report of an unintended civilian death.