From 2009 to 2015 the U.S. armed forces conducted 473 air strikes against suspected terrorists. According to figures provided by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), close to 2700 people, of which up to 116 were civilians, were killed in those strikes.
The below chart illustrates those strikes carried out outside so-called “areas of active hostilities”, commonly referred to as war zones. By definition air strikes in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are discounted. On the other hand countries such as Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia are included.
Translated into plain language, this chart shows where the U.S. armed forces have used, mostly drones, to eliminate what officials thought to be terrorists in areas where no hostilities have officially been declared. The term "active hostilities" is misleading as anybody firing a rocket from a drone against any target is actively engaged in hostilities.
Also, the term non-combatant is used to refer to what are usually called civilians. Distinguishing combatants from civilians is hard enough when troops engage irregular forces on the ground. This differentiation must be even harder when targets are chosen and engaged with from high up in the sky. So-called post-strike battle damage assessments can for obvious reasons be very inaccurate too.
"In releasing these figures, the U.S. government acknowledges that there are differences between U.S. government assessments and reporting from non-governmental organizations", the report states and goes into detail as to why government figures are lower: Better intelligence with a higher variety of sources and disregard of terrorist propaganda spread in local media.
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