Pentagon chief orders reforms to reduce civilian deaths
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered Pentagon officials on Jan. 27 to undertake reforms to reduce the number of civilian deaths from military strikes after multiple unjustified fatal incidents.
"The protection of civilians is fundamentally consistent with the effective, efficient and decisive use of force in pursuit of US national interests," Austin said in a directive issued to Department of Defense leadership.
"It is a strategic and moral imperative," he said.
Austin gave Pentagon officials 90 days to produce a plan for how civilian casualties can be reduced and avoided in combat operations, saying the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq provide an opportunity to learn lessons and mitigate civilian harm in an institutional way.
The move came after several incidents placed a dark cloud over the Pentagon, most recently the erroneous killing of 10 people, including seven children, in a Kabul drone strike in August 2021 during the last days of the US presence in Afghanistan.
Likewise, the US military has been embarrassed by reporting by The New York Times that showed a poorly managed March 2019 bombing that killed some 70 civilians in the final days of the war against the Islamic State group.
The military avoided investigation and accountability in that incident, the Times said.
Austin's order came after a study of civilian death causes and reporting by RAND Corp, commissioned by the Pentagon, painted an unflattering picture of the US military's processes for dealing with such incidents.
It said that in planning strikes, the military focuses so much on the enemy that it neglects the broader civilian picture -- a problem that can lead to avoidable casualties.
And it says the military does not adequately and...
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