The ‘Civilian Casualty Files’: How US precision airstrikes caused thousands of civilian deaths

In what became a multiple-year investigation, The Times Magazine reporter Azmat Khan examined the casualties caused by the US military’s air campaign against ISIS in Iraq. Kahn obtained 1,300 of the military’s own ‘civilian casualty assessment’ reports through freedom of information act requests and traveled the Middle East to interview those affected by the violence.

What she found was that one in five US airstrikes during this period had led to civilian casualties. This translates to thousands of victims, a number much higher than the narrative of precision surrounding this air campaign would suggest.

Khan concludes from her research that this failure is mostly due to flawed intelligence, confirmation bias, and misidentification of targets.

These and other findings were published in two articles in the New York Times in November 2021 and Khan shared her experiences during this investigation in an episode of Michael Barbaro’s New York Times podcast ‘The Daily’ early this year. Her account provides a staggering insight into the devastating reality of this supposedly ‘unprecedentedly clean’ war.

Read Khan’s two-part NYT publication here and here.

You can page through the ‘Civilian Casualty Files’ Khan obtained here.

Listen to Khan sharing her story on The Daily here.