U.S. Africa Command Civilian Casualty Assessment Process

U.S. Africa Command has made it a priority to be as transparent as possible; we are committed to providing as much information as possible about an airstrike while protecting U.S. and partner forces movements, intelligence collection methods, operational details, and any other information the enemy could us for their own gain.

U.S. Africa Command has made it a priority to be as transparent as possible; we are committed to providing as much information as possible about an airstrike while protecting U.S. and partner forces movements, intelligence collection methods, operational details, and any other information the enemy could us for their own gain.

In doing so, we set ourselves apart from malign actors and violent extremists who intentionally target civilians or hide their actions. To us, values matter, and we strive to uphold and represent those values in all we do. 

While we utilize a thorough identification process and sophisticated intelligence and weaponry, we recognize the inherent danger, like any military operation, associated with an airstrike does not come without risk. And while civilian casualties can occur without violating the Law of Armed Conflict, the U.S. military’s devotion to the preservation of innocent life is incomparable to that of our enemies. Our actions and processes reflect that fact. The death of civilians in U.S. military operations damages that confidence. Therefore we hold ourselves to a high standard and when we fail to meet it, we own our failure, take our lessons learned, and commit to better in the future.

As such, in the spring of 2020, U.S. Africa Command began publishing a quarterly report to investigate all allegations of civilian casualties and ensure transparency.

After conducting a strike, if there is any report or indication of possible civilian casualties, U.S. Africa Command performs a detailed assessment. The command collects and receives reports of possible civilian casualties from a variety of sources. Most commonly, personnel within the command discover reports by monitoring open-source entities to include news and social media. Additionally, the command receives reports from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and from entries to the U.S. Africa Command civilian casualty reporting portal page. 

Upon receipt of a report of possible civilian casualties, the command’s Civilian Casualty Cell releases a notification report throughout the command that informs senior leaders of the report and any other immediately available information. Civilian casualty assessments can be conducted in order to determine if civilians were more likely than not injured or killed as a result of actions taken by the U.S. Africa Command. The Civilian Casualty Cell reviews all reasonably available information of the operation or strike. Sources of information the Civilian Casualty Cell reviews include operational data and reporting, video surveillance and other data from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, and information 

After reviewing all reasonably available information, the Civilian Casualty Cell provides a recommendation of whether the report of civilian casualties is substantiated, meaning it is more likely than not that civilian harm did occur from a U.S. military operation. (Conversely, reports of civilian casualties are found unsubstantiated if the assessment supports a finding that U.S. Africa Command actions or operations resulted in the death or injury of a legitimate military target, civilian deaths or injuries could not have resulted from a U.S. Africa Command action or operation, or there is insufficient evidence to corroborate an allegation.) A military attorney reviews every assessment, ensuring the information to make the determination is legally sufficient, and additionally provides an assessment of whether the correlated strike or operation complied with the current Rules of Engagement and the Law of Armed Conflict. The civilian casualty assessment report, along with its recommended findings are provided to the U.S. Africa Command Director of Operations and the Combatant Commander, who make the final determination.

In the spring of 2020, U.S. Africa Command began publishing the findings of civilian casualty assessments in quarterly reports to ensure transparency. U.S. Africa Command has made transparency a priority in our civilian casualty assessment process. U.S. Africa Command is committed to proactively providing as much information as possible about an airstrike while protecting U.S. and partner force movements, intelligence collection methods and sensitive operational details.

U.S. Africa Command’s assessment of reports of civilian casualties occasionally differ from other organizations, including NGOs, for a number of reasons. The command’s information is based on reliable and layered intelligence sources and classified operational reporting which are not available to the public. The difference in access to sources can contribute to perceived discrepancies between the command’s assessment results and those of other organizations. For more on our civilian casualty review and reporting process please follow this link: [Link to CIVCAS reports page]