Thousands of airstrikes carried out by the US military across the Middle East have not been disclosed, a new investigation has revealed, raising questions about the transparency of the Pentagon's reported progress against the Daesh (ISIL) terror as well as costs and casualty counts.
In 2016 alone, 456 of US Air Force’s 1,071 airstrikes in Afghanistan were not listed in an online database maintained by the force’s Central Command (AFCENT), the Military Times reported Sunday.
There is an even bigger discrepancy in Iraq and Syria, where a US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes on reported Daesh positions since 2014.
According to the Air Force, the coalition jets had conducted 23,740 airstrikes until the end of 2016. The US Defense Department, however, puts the number at 17,861 until the end of January 2017.
Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups use the comprehensive AFCENT database to assess military expenses and the resulting death toll from each airstrike.
Carried out mostly by attack helicopters and armed drones, the unreported air raids can reveal the true extent of destruction and civilian casualties left behind by the US military since 2001, when the so-called war on terror began.
Washington’s refusal to disclose all of the air raids would also cast doubt on previous reports concerning “American combat casualties, taxpayer expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities,” the report added.
The US Central Command, which oversees America’s military operations in all three countries, confirmed that the practice was taking place but it could not confirm for how long.
“It is really weird. We don’t track the number of strikes from Apaches, for example” said an American military official familiar with CENTCOM's internal data collection and reporting process.
“I can tell you, unequivocally, we are not trying to hide the number of strikes,” the official claimed. “That is just the way it has been tracked in the past. That’s what it’s always been.”
This is while, according to definitions established and followed by members of US-led coalitions, airstrikes can involve all kinds of combat aircraft including fighters and other jets, attack helicopters and drones regardless of the type of munitions they use.