Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered an inquiry into U.S. airstrikes in Syria that killed dozens of civilians. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered an inquiry into U.S. airstrikes into Syria in 2019 that resulted in scores of civilian deaths.
The department's press secretary, John Kirby, announced the launch of the probe during a media briefing on Monday, stating Army Gen. Michael Garrett, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, has been tapped to lead the review.
Garrett will have 90 days to review reports of an investigation already conducted into the incident as well as conduct further inquiries into the facts and circumstances related to it, Kirby said.
The inquiry, he said, will include, among other concerns, whether mitigation measures identified in previous investigations into the incident were implemented effectively and whether accountability measures would be appropriate.
The announcement of the investigation follows a report from The New York Times earlier this month detailing how U.S. airstrikes on a Syrian town called Baghuz in its fight against Islamic State on March 18, 2019, killed more than 60 civilians.
Kirby said Austin decided to conduct the investigation after a briefing on the matter a couple weeks ago with Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr.
The press secretary told reporters that Austin's decision to name a specific four-star general to lead the investigation "is a reflection how seriously he's taking the issue, that he wants to make sure that we do a proper review and inquiry of the original incident and the investigations that followed it."
The 90-day deadline for the report, which is longer than previous timelines given for similar incidents, is due to that fact that the incident being probed happened "a long time ago," Kirby said.
"And I think the secretary wanted to allow more time to deal with the fact that the information is much older," he said. "So just in time and space we're more distant from it."