According to a report released by the British Ministry of Defense (MoD), the Royal Air Force (RAF) is claiming an astounding 4,013 enemy killed and 302 wounded (a total of 4,315) with the loss of just one civilian. The official figures were released after the Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a civil rights advocacy group, filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the MoD. The stats cover a period of about four-and-a-half years (September 2014 to January 2019).
“That professionalism is right at the core in terms of everything we do and that’s how they’ve been able to minimize any form of civilian casualties and I think we should all be very proud of that,” said Gavin Williamson, the British Defense Secretary, to Forces News in response to released figures.
All of the airstrikes concern jihadists in Iraq and Syria. About 75% of the targets were in Iraq, with 25% in Syria. British aircraft couldn’t strike targets in Syria until December 2015, when after an emotional debate that lasted more than 10 hours, the British Parliament voted in favor of extending the RAF’s mandate within Syrian airspace. Moreover, 37% of the targets were neutralized by Eurofighter Typhoons, 31% by Tornado GR4s, and 32% by MQ-9 Reaper drones.
“The reason that we’ve been able to be very open and report to Parliament as to where we are and what we’re doing and any possible impact is that amount of time we take in terms of not just the planning, but the analysis post-strike to ensure we’ve done everything we can to minimize any form of impact on anyone else other than the targets that are a threat to our country,” added Williamson.
However, Iain Overton, the executive director of the AOAV, was skeptical of the released figures. “The RAF’s claim of a ratio of one civilian casualty against 4,315 enemies must be a world record in modern conflict,” said Overton, “yet few conflict experts believe this to be true.”
The advocacy group leader went on to explain his rationale of doubting the official figures: “The MOD notes in the FOI release that ‘information concerning enemy killed and wounded in action is based on the best available post-strike analysis.’ This information, however, is only given as an estimate as the U.K. is not in a position to visit airstrike sites inside Syria and verify the facts. To them, it is clear that far more needs to be done by the U.K. to improve transparency surrounding civilian casualties from airstrikes. Its coalition partner, the U.S., has committed to such, so why not the U.K.?”
The MoD responded to his skepticism by saying following every airstrike, a thorough Battle Damage Assessment by either ground troops or imagery analysis determines the exact outcome and effect.