The U.S. military says air and ground operations it conducted in Afghanistan last year unintentionally killed 20 civilians.
The deaths are among an estimated 23 civilians killed in U.S. operations in war zones in 2020, according to an annual report on civilian casualties submitted to Congress.
The U.S. Department of Defense "assesses that there were approximately 23 civilians killed and approximately 10 civilians injured during 2020 as a result of U.S. military operations," according to the portion of the report released to the public.
The Pentagon said in addition to the 20 deaths in Afghanistan, five people were injured in the country. The deaths and injuries took place in seven air and ground operations in January and February, the report said.
One of the other civilian deaths occurred in Somalia in February 2020 and another in Iraq in March 2020. The report does not specify when or where the other victim or victims were killed.
The number of civilians killed is far lower than in previous years, a reflection of a decline in offensive operations during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2017, by contrast, the U.S. military said it had killed nearly 500 civilians.
The document says that although Congress allocates $3 million annually for financial compensation to the families of victims, no compensation has been paid to the victims killed and injured in 2020.
The document said commanders rely on regulations to evaluate incidents and to determine whether offering a payment would be appropriate. It added that a policy that is under development “will provide further guidance on the range of responses that might be appropriate for [the Department of Defense] to take when U.S. military operations injure or kill a civilian or damage or destroy civilian property.”
The number of victims that the Pentagon took responsibility for in its report is far below figures compiled by NGOs about civilian death tolls in areas where the U.S. military is active.
The monitoring group Airwars, which tracks civilian victims of air strikes, said that its most conservative estimates shows that 102 civilians were killed in U.S. operations around the world.
Airwars cited the United Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which said it counted 89 deaths and 31 people wounded in operations by U.S.-led coalition forces.
In Somalia, Airwars and other NGOs estimate the death toll at seven. It says U.S. operations also killed civilians in Syria and Iraq.
U.S. Military Says Its Operations Unintentionally Killed 20 Civilians In Afghanistan Last Year