Pentagon releases plan to reduce civilian casualties in US airstrikes
The Pentagon released a plan on Thursday aimed at better preventing civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure in US airstrikes.
In January, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin commissioned a working group to come up with a plan after the US military was criticized for the recent attacks. ALast August, 10 civilians were killed, including seven children, and a recent New York Times investigation into an attack in Syria in 2019 found more civilians were killed than the military initially admitted.
“Protecting civilians is both a strategic priority and a moral imperative,” Austin wrote in a memo Thursday to senior civilians and military commanders with a plan of action.
“Our efforts to mitigate and respond to civilian damage directly reflect our values and also directly contribute to the success of the mission,” Austin wrote.
As part of the action plan, the Pentagon will establish a Civil Defense Center of Excellence to coordinate analysis, intelligence, and training across military commands. The center will have approximately 30 dedicated employees and is expected to be operational by fiscal year 2025.
A senior defense official who briefed reporters on the plan said one of the center’s goals is to have subject matter experts to help commanders work through the planning stages of strikes and post-action reports.
The official also said that in the future, civilian harm reduction will have more weight in drills, training and education. Much of this is managed by the Competence Center.
The Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan, as it’s officially called, also directs the Pentagon to create dedicated positions for civilian harm reduction efforts in the commands and military services. A total of around 150 people will initially be deployed to this effort, with the potential for more after the Pentagon conducts an additional personnel study.
The official said one of the lessons the task force creating the action plan learned from this was that people responsible for mitigating civilian harm too often do it as a side job. This plan aims to ensure that civilian harm prevention is built into every part of the Pentagon.