Investigation into Syrian air strikes completed
30 November 2016
The investigation into Coalition-led airstrikes targeting what was believed to be Daesh fighters near Dayr az Zawr, Syria, on 18 September 2016 (AEST), has found that the airstrikes were conducted in full compliance with the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict.
The investigation found the decisions that identified the targets as Daesh fighters were supported by the information available at the time. The investigation also found no evidence of deliberate disregard of targeting procedures or rules of engagement.
Although the identity of those killed or wounded could not be substantiated, the investigation found it was more likely than not that those struck were irregular forces aligned to the Syrian government who were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying indentifying flags or markings.
Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said Australia’s sole focus was to target Daesh.
“In many ways these forces looked and acted like the Daesh fighters the Coalition has been targeting for two years.
The situation on the ground in Syria is complex and dynamic. The Australian Air Task Group undertakes a detailed and robust sovereign approval process prior to conducting any strikes.
I have full confidence in our personnel’s training, discipline and understanding of the imperative to operate in accordance with our strict rules of engagement,” Air Chief Marshal Binskin said.
The rules of engagement are designed to minimise the risk of injury to civilian non-combatants and comply with Australia’s legal obligations as well as protect Australian forces.
Coalition aircraft, including an Australian E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and two F/A-18A Hornet strike fighters, along with US, UK and Danish aircraft, conducted the strikes under the coordination and control of the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC).
The Coalition investigation made four recommendations to refine the CAOC targeting process and further reduce the risk of errors:
- Review the organisation, process and training associated with dynamic targeting;
- Improve information sharing among analysts;
- Strengthen the process for implementing lessons learned; and
- Pass critical information immediately under the Flight Safety MoU.
The Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston said the CAOC had already started to implement the recommendations.
“To ensure Australia continues to meet the high standards we have set for ourselves, we will work with our partner nations to ensure these lessons are implemented across the Coalition,” Vice Admiral Johnston said.
A link to the unclassified summary of the investigation is available at: www.centcom.mil/Portals/6/media/REDACTED_FINAL_XSUM_Memorandum__29_Nov_16___CLEAR.pdf
The Chief of Joint Operations’ statement is available to download in HD (MP4 file) from http://video.defence.gov.au. To save the video file, click the video titled “Investigation into Syrian air strikes complete” then click the “DOWNLOAD” button beneath the video.