A highly redacted report was released by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) of their investigation into the U.S. airstrikes on Syrian soldiers on September 17, 2016, that killed upwards of 100 Syrians fighting ISIS in the Deir Ezzor battlefield. The strike created an opportunity for the Islamic State to advance on Syrian military positions. Many irregularities have been found in the report between the stated position of the U.S. government that it was a mistake, and events leading up to the strike.
The report, released by US Central Command on 29 November, shows that senior US Air Force officers at the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar, who were responsible for the decision to carry out the September airstrike at Deir Ezzor:
- misled the Russians about where the US intended to strike so Russia could not warn that it was targeting Syrian troops
- ignored information and intelligence analysis warning that the positions to be struck were Syrian government rather than Islamic State
- shifted abruptly from a deliberate targeting process to an immediate strike in violation of normal Air Force procedures
Last week Brig. Gen. Richard Coe, the lead US official on the investigating team, told reporters that US air strikes in Deir Ezzor on 17 September, which killed at least 62 – and possibly more than 100 – Syrian army troops, was the unintentional result of “human error”.
The report itself says that the investigators found “no evidence of misconduct” – but it is highly critical of the decision process and does not offer any explanations for that series of irregularities.