Mr. Austin, who became Secretary of Defense this year, received a secret briefing earlier this month on the strike and how the military dealt with it from General Kenneth F. Mackenzie, Jr. war. in Syria.
The Times investigation showed that the death toll in the strike – 80 people – became known to the military almost immediately. The legal officer described the bombing as a possible war crime requiring investigation. But at almost every step, the military took steps that covered up a catastrophic blow. An independent Defense Inspector General opened an investigation, but a report containing his findings stalled and lost any mention of the strike.
In an email to the Senate Armed Services Committee this spring, a legal officer who witnessed the strike warned that “senior US military officials have deliberately and systematically bypassed the deliberate strike process” and that there is a good chance that “senior levels of government remained in ignorance of what was happening on the ground. “
Armed Services Committee spokesman Chip Unruh said the group “continues to be actively engaged and continues to study this issue.” Representative Adam Smith, a Washington-based Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, announced earlier this month that his commission is also investigating the attack and its actions by the military.
Key findings of the Baguz airstrike investigation
Disclosure of the truth. Over the months, The New York Times has pieced together the details of the 2019 airstrike in Baguz, Syria, one of the largest incidents of civilian casualties in the war against the Islamic State. Here are the main findings of the investigation:
The Times investigation revealed that the Air Force F-15E attack bombardment was triggered by Task Force 9, which is composed primarily of the elite US Army Delta Force. The task force was responsible for ground operations in Syria, working closely with Syrian Kurdish and Arab militias. The military, who spoke to The Times, said the secret task force had bypassed surveillance, saying the vast majority of its strikes required immediate action to protect allied forces from an imminent threat. Often, according to the military, there was no such threat.
After the Times sent its findings to US Central Command, the attack was acknowledged for the first time by the Times. The statement said the 80 deaths were justified because the task force launched a self-defense strike against a group of militants who posed an imminent threat to Allied forces on the ground.
Central Command told The Times that the strike included three guided bombs: a 500-pound bomb that hit the original group, and two 2000-pound bombs aimed at people fleeing the first explosion. Command later corrected itself, stating that all three bombs were 500 pounds of ammunition.