The Farah Report

US Central Command on Friday released the executive summary (fairly large file) of the report on the investigation into the civilian casualties that resulted from the May 4 battle between Taliban insurgents and Afghanistan and coalition forces in Farah province. The conclusion was that there were likely at least 26—and possibly more—civilian casualties, but that the US aircraft strikes were lawful within “the totality of the circumstances.” The report does not recommend eliminating the use of close air support, “especially in direct and indirect fire situations that imperil friendly forces;” however it does caution that “absent a direct or imminent threat, we must pursue a tactical approach that prioritizes avoidance of civilian casualties as a fundamental aspect of mission success.” It notes that two of three B-1B strikes that took place after sunset in the nearly eight-hour confrontation could have caused civilian casualties. The ground force commander determined that coalition and Afghan forces were in danger and gave the strike orders, but neither the ground force commander nor the aircrew could confirm the presence or absence of civilians in the target buildings, which is why the investigators believe the two CAS strikes were each “a likely source of civilian casualties.” Among several recommendations, the report calls for coalition forces to refine guidance for employment of weapons when there is potential for civilian casualties. It also calls for a review of aircraft used in CAS roles for “appropriateness” and for “any shortfalls with respect to the maintenance of positive identification.”