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Austin Orders Review of 2019 Baghuz Airstrikes, Which Killed Syrian Civilians

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 29, 2021) -- The Pentagon announced today that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has asked for a review of the March 18, 2019, airstrikes that occurred in Al-Baghuz Fawqani, Syria, which resulted in the deaths of more than 60 civilians there.

The incident took place as part of efforts by U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces to defeat ISIS in Syria.

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The secretary has tasked Army Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, to conduct the review, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a briefing today.

Garrett will review the reports of an investigation already conducted into the incident and will conduct a further inquiry of his own as well. The general has been tasked to submit his findings within 90 days to the secretary, Kirby said.

"The inquiry will include an assessment of the following things: the civilian casualties that resulted from the incident; compliance with the law of war; record-keeping and reporting procedures; whether mitigation measures identified in previous investigations into the incident were in fact implemented effectively; whether accountability measures would be appropriate; and finally whether authorities, procedures or processes should be altered," Kirby told reporters.

Guard Vaccinations

The secretary of defense has mandated all service members, including active forces, Reserve and National Guard personnel, be vaccinated against COVID-19. Deadlines for National Guard personnel to be fully vaccinated have already been set by the military services. Air National Guard personnel must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 2, 2021, while Army

National Guard personnel must be vaccinated by June 30, 2022.

Failure to be vaccinated could affect a Guard member's ability to continue to serve, Kirby told reporters.

"By not taking the vaccine, therefore not meeting a mandatory readiness requirement, an individual in the National Guard could put in jeopardy their ability to continue to serve in the National Guard," Kirby said. "The National Guard, as you know, even under Title 32, is funded by the federal government. So training operations that come under Title 32 -- much less Title 10 -- come under the secretary's purview. One could elect not to take the vaccine, of course, but then you would be putting at jeopardy your ability to stay in the National Guard."

Without meeting the vaccine requirement, Kirby said, Guardsmen wouldn't be allowed to train, drill or contribute to operations under Title 10 or Title 32.

"That could lead to potential decertification of their skill set -- whatever that is -- and of course that ... could lead to no longer being able to serve in the National Guard," he said.

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