Pentagon plan aims to help avoid civilian deaths in strikes

Aug 25, 2022, 2:31 PM | Updated: Aug 26, 2022, 7:51 am
FILE - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin talks during ta news conference with Minister of Defence o...

FILE - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin talks during ta news conference with Minister of Defence of Latvia Artis Pabriks in Riga, Latvia, Aug. 10, 2022. The Pentagon will set up a new center in the next year to help avoid civilian casualties in military operations around the world, through better education and training and increased vetting before strikes are launched. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov, File)

(AP Photo/Roman Koksarov, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon will set up a new center in the next year to help avoid civilian casualties in military operations around the world through better education and training and increased screening before strikes are launched.

The plan ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and released Thursday comes on the heels of widespread criticism over a U.S. airstrike in Kabul last August that killed 10 civilians, including children, during the final chaotic days of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A senior defense official said the development of a new Civilian Protection Center of Excellence and other improvements will cost “tens of millions of dollars” per year, and the plan more broadly would involve the addition of about 150 staff. The center would initially start operations in the 2023 budget year that begins Oct. 1, and would be fully staffed and working by 2025. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under department rules to provide details of the plan.

Laid out in a 36-page action plan, the changes approved by Austin call for updated policies and guidelines for military operations, and steps that must be taken in order to better analyze threats, assess who is on the ground and determine what other civilian structures could be affected.

A key criticism of the Afghanistan drone strike was that those making the final decision were too quick to conclude that the white Toyota Corolla under watch aligned with the intelligence and confirmed their conclusion to bomb what turned out to be the wrong vehicle. The new Pentagon plan is aimed at preventing such “confirmation bias” and more consistently involving teams to specifically challenge assumptions to make sure a strike is appropriate.

The plan would put new personnel in each of the combatant commands that are in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific, South America and U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, as well as in all the military services, other senior commands and vital places such as Special Operations Command, Cyber Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

There has been persistent criticism, particularly from human rights organizations, that U.S. military strikes in Syria, Iraq and other battlefields have killed civilians but that officials have failed or been slow to acknowledge those deaths. In some cases, the U.S. military’s inability to get to a strike location in its immediate aftermath has led to conclusions that allegations of civilian deaths were not confirmable.

An independent review done late last year found that better communication between those making the strike decision and other support personnel might have raised more doubts about the Kabul attack or possibly prevented it.

Under Austin’s plan, there will be ongoing education and training and more specific policies about getting positive identification for targeting. Civilian casualty assessments will become a consistent element in military exercises so troops can practice how best to avoid killing the innocent.

The new system will improve data collection and investigations so that the Pentagon can more precisely report civilian deaths. It will set up a new framework for how the Defense Department responds to deaths, including acknowledging them and providing condolences and other aid in the aftermath.

More broadly, the plan accounts for better assessment in counterterrorism strikes as well as the prospects of civilian casualties in a large-scale war, such as one with China or Russia.

A review by RAND Corp. of the August 2021 airstrike in Afghanistan concluded that military’s focus on civilian casualties has for years largely involved operations in places such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. RAND said the Pentagon is not prepared to deal with the issue in that larger type of war, which likely would involve combat in urban areas where it would be more difficult to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

The Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan killed Zemerai Ahmadi and nine family members, including seven children. Ahmadi, 37, was a longtime employee of an American humanitarian organization and was not a militant, as first claimed by military officials.

The Pentagon initially said the attack was valid, despite 10 civilian deaths, but later acknowledged it was a “tragic mistake.” The independent Pentagon review concluded there was no misconduct or negligence.

RAND’s review concluded that the U.S. military follows a flawed and inadequate process for assessing and investigating suspected civilian damage and casualties caused by U.S. airstrikes. It said internal reporting on civilian casualties can be unreliable and incomplete, and it recommended the military take a broader view of damage to include structural damage that hurts basic community functions.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm in Iowa on Oct. 21, 2015. Nebraska agri...
Associated Press

Bird flu prompts slaughter of 1.8M chickens in Nebraska

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska agriculture officials say another 1.8 million chickens must be killed after bird flu was found on a farm in the latest sign that the outbreak that has already prompted the slaughter of more than 50 million birds nationwide continues to spread. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture said Saturday that the […]
11 hours ago
This image released by Disney shows a scene from the animated film "Strange World." (Disney via AP)...
Associated Press

Feast and famine for Disney at Thanksgiving box office

Thanksgiving often serves up a feast of new family movies at the box office, but the Walt Disney Co.’s animated offering ” Strange World ” fizzled with audiences out of the gates. The production, which carried a reported $180 million budget, grossed just $18.6 million in ticket sales in its first five days and $11.9 […]
11 hours ago
A youth uses his smartphone as he and a friend walk along the Malecon seawall in Havana, Cuba, Frid...
Associated Press

Cuba’s informal market finds new space on growing internet

HAVANA (AP) — In the Telegram group chat, the messages roll in like waves. “I need liquid ibuprofen and acetaminophen, please,” wrote one user. “It’s urgent, it’s for my 10-month-old baby.” Others offer medicine brought from outside of Cuba, adding, “Write to me in a direct message.” Emoji-speckled lists offer antibiotics, pregnancy tests, vitamins, rash […]
11 hours ago
An inflatable depicting the World Cup trophy is seen during pregame celebrations prior to the World...
Associated Press

Saudi viewers angry over apparent ban on World Cup streaming

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — World Cup viewers in Saudi Arabia say the government has blocked a Qatari-owned streaming service that was supposed to broadcast matches in the kingdom. The suspension has stunned and outraged customers of TOD TV, which holds the rights to show the World Cup in Saudi Arabia. TOD TV is owned by […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Vern Miyagi, Administrator, HEMA, left, and Hawaii Gov. David Ige addressed the media during...
Associated Press

Hawaii Gov. Ige looks back on coronavirus, tourism shutdown

HONOLULU (AP) — As Hawaii’s governor, David Ige faced a volcanic eruption that destroyed 700 homes, protests blocking construction of a cutting-edge multibillion-dollar telescope and a false alert about an incoming ballistic missile. During the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism shut down and Hawaii’s unemployment rate soared to 22.4%. Crisis response is one way to sum up […]
11 hours ago
Sheetal Deo and her husband, Sanmeet Deo, hold a Hindu swastika symbol in their home in Syosset, N....
Associated Press

Asian faiths try to save sacred swastika corrupted by Hitler

Sheetal Deo was shocked when she got a letter from her Queens apartment building’s co-op board calling her Diwali decoration “offensive” and demanding she take it down. “My decoration said ‘Happy Diwali’ and had a swastika on it,” said Deo, a physician, who was celebrating the Hindu festival of lights. The equilateral cross with its […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Pentagon plan aims to help avoid civilian deaths in strikes