Pentagon Accused of Destroying Civilian Bridges in Syria, Killing Civilians in Afghanistan

September 30th, 2016 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & John Davison and Michelle Nichols / Reuters & Pamela Constable / The Washington Post – 2016-09-30 22:34:06

Syria: US Destroyed Eastern Bridges in Attack on Infrastructure

One of the two bridges over Euphrates River in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr that the US-led coalition destroyed on September 28, 2016.

Syria: US Destroyed Eastern Bridges in Attack on Infrastructure
Jason Ditz /

(September 29, 2016) — The Syrian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement today condemning the US-led coalition for bombing and destroying a pair of bridges in the eastern Deir Ezzor Province, saying they amount to an attack on Syria’s economic infrastructure.

Two bridges spanning the Euphrates River were bombed on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, rendering both unusable. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the warplanes that attacked the bridges were from the US coalition.

The Observatory warned that that destruction of the bridges both dramatically impede humanitarian aid deliveries into the area, and would hamper the movement of civilians trying to flee combat areas in the province, which is mostly controlled by ISIS.

The Deir Ezzor Province is the same site where US warplanes accidentally attacked a Syrian Army base earlier this month, killing scores of Syrian troops and allowing ISIS forces to quickly overrun the base and take it over.

Syria Slams US Coalition for Destruction of Bridges in East
John Davison and Michelle Nichols / Reuters

BEIRUT (September 29, 2016) – The Syrian government on Thursday criticised the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State for destroying two bridges on the Euphrates river this week in areas the jihadists hold in the east of the country.

Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes most probably from the coalition hit the two bridges in Deir al-Zor province on Tuesday and Wednesday, making them unusable.

The attacks “confirm the so-called international coalition’s intent to bomb and destroy Syrian infrastructure and economic and social establishments through repeated aggressive acts,” state TV quoted the foreign ministry as saying. Syria’s ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said the bridges had been used by hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The Observatory said putting the bridges out of action would impede aid deliveries to areas in need and hamper movement of civilians.

The United States has been leading a campaign against Islamic State in Syria’s east, supporting Arab and Kurdish fighters on the ground with air strikes.

Allies Criticize US Airstrikes Hitting Wrong Targets in Somalia, Afghanistan
Jason Ditz /

(September 29, 2016) — With more and more US airstrikes not only failing to hit their announced targets but actually hitting the wrong people, the Obama Administration is having growing criticism and questioning about their policies, with the UN warning the US to adhere to its obligations under international humanitarian law.

The UN warning came in the wake of a deadly US airstrike in Nangarhar, which the Pentagon announced killed a bunch of ISIS fighters, but which government officials later revealed actually killed at least 15 civilians and wounded 12 others. The Afghan government is already investigating and the UN is calling for an independent inquiry beyond that.

Somalia’s government, such as it is, also wants a good explanation for a US airstrike yesterday in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region, which once again, Pentagon officials bragged about as a “self-defense” strike that killed a bunch of al-Shabaab fighters, but which Somalia later confirmed killed 22 Somali soldiers.

That incident, according to officials in Galmudug, appears to have been the result of officials in rival Puntland, another autonomous region, calling in the strike and telling the US that the targets were Shabaab. The US appears not only to have launched the strike without checking with Galmudugi officials, but also publicly took credit for it before they bothered to find out who they actually killed.

UN Officials Criticize Fatal US Airstrike in Afghanistan
Pamela Constable / The Washington Post

KABUL (September 29, 2016) — United Nations officials Thursday condemned an airstrike by an unmanned US military aircraft a day earlier that they said killed 15 civilians and wounded at least 12 in the insurgent-plagued eastern Afghan province of Nangahar. They called for a complete investigation.

The early morning attack targeted a residential compound in the volatile Achin district, near the border of Pakistan, which US military officials said they believed was being used by fighters for the Islamic State militant group, widely known in Afghanistan as Daesh.

However, local leaders and legislators said the victims were all civilians, including children and a teacher, who had gathered at a guesthouse to welcome home a tribal leader who had just returned from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. All were said to have been sleeping when the strike hit.

Afghan police said the strike had targeted Islamic State loyalists, and UN officials quoted government sources as reporting that several Taliban or Daesh militants also had been killed.

In a statement Thursday, officials of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan called for Afghan and foreign military forces to launch a “prompt, independent, impartial” and effective investigation. They also stressed “the need for all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

US military officials confirmed Wednesday that they had conducted a “counterterrorism airstrike” in that area and were investigating reports of Afghan casualties. They did not release details but said they were “reviewing all materials related to the strike.”

In a statement, the US officials said they take “all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously” but added that “Daesh is killing innocent Afghan men, women, and children. They continue to put innocent lives at risk by deliberately surrounding themselves with civilians and dressing in female attire.”

They said they would work with Afghan officials to determine whether there was “need for further investigation.” They also noted that Daesh has been active in Nangahar since 2015, particularly in Achin, and that it uses the area to “train, equip, disseminate propaganda, and expand their control over innocent Afghans.”

US military forces have been working closely with Afghan security forces to drive Daesh from the area. A US airstrike in July killed the senior Daesh leader in the region.

Pamela Constable is The Post‘s bureau chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She previously served as a South Asia bureau chief and most recently covered immigration in the Washington area for several years.

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