Pentagon investigators have concluded that several factors, some still classified, contributed to a sequence of events that led to the mistaken Sept. 17 bombing of Syrian government forces by coalition aircraft. The ill-fated mission followed protocol normally used in Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition-led effort to destroy Islamic State terrorists who operate in Syria and Iraq, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard “Tex” Coe, who led the probe. Based on information provided by the Combined Air Operations Center, the planes’ pilots believed they were attacking enemy troops. Complicating matters, the troops were wearing little or nothing that would indicate they were friendly. “We made an unintentional, regrettable error, primarily based on human factors in several areas of the targeting process,” Coe said during a Nov. 29 media teleconference from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. Initial reports stated that 84 persons died. The investigation could identify 15 deaths positively. The investigators recommended that:
• The hybrid targeting process used in the strike undergoes a thorough review.
• The information-sharing process among analysts charged with guarding against human error be improved.
• The Combined Air Operations Center employ a “more effective lessons-learned process.
• Enhancement of the use of the U.S.-Russia safety deconfliction hotline. Russian forces used the hotline at the time of the incident to let coalition forces know they were hitting friendly targets.