Mildly interesting: Military record-keeping incomplete on lethal strikes in combat zones

Mildly interesting: Military record-keeping incomplete on lethal strikes in combat zones
Army AH-64D Apache from the 3-159 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion takes off from USS Mesa Verde during interoperability training in the Persian Gulf in April 2014. (Photo, US Army, Emily McGuire)

[Ed. – The tone of this article is overly sensationalized, as it’s clear nothing nefarious is going on.  It turns out the Air Force, which keeps the official records on lethal air strikes, hasn’t been including air strikes in Afghanistan and Iraq by Army helicopters and drones.  (The Military Times article mentions Syria too, but if the U.S. Army has been conducting air strikes in Syria, it’s somebody ELSE who owes us an explanation.)  The Army doesn’t keep records on the strikes, and CENTCOM apparently hasn’t been incorporating them in any comprehensive record-keeping separate from the Air Force totals.

[If someone feels this needs to be changed — and it probably does — well, do it.  Calm down first.  It’s not a small thing to order this change.  For good reason, Army air operations are not interchangeable in terms of planning, target designation, or execution with the Air Force-organized machinery that produces fixed-wing air strikes.  It will add a significant record-keeping and reporting burden, to add Army air attacks to the records in question — in part because there are multiple reasons for keeping such records.  The Air Force records and Army air ops intersect fully only at the one point the Military Times writers start out with: how many “lethal” strikes have happened.  That’s a political purpose for definition and record-keeping, not a military-technical one.]

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters.

Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001. If that is the case, it would fundamentally undermine confidence in much of what the Pentagon has disclosed about its prosecution of these wars, prompt critics to call into question whether the military sought to mislead the American public, and cast doubt on the competency with which other vital data collection is being performed and publicized.

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