The American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially
thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq,
Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The
enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported
progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls
into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures
documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.
In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes
in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source
database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by
Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the
media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense,
manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out
by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army,
metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries,
published online for years, detailing American military activity in all
Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001.
If that is the case, it would fundamentally undermine confidence in
much of what the Pentagon has disclosed about its prosecution of these
wars, prompt critics to call into question whether the military sought
to mislead the American public, and cast doubt on the competency with
which other vital data collection is being performed and publicized.
Those other key metrics include American combat casualties, taxpayer
expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy
U.S. Central Command, which oversees military activity in
all three war zones, indicated it is unable to determine how far back
the Army’s numbers have been excluded from these airpower summaries.