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Pentagon releases plan to mitigate civilian casualties in U.S. airstrikes

The Pentagon on Thursday released a plan aimed at better preventing civilian casualties and civilian infrastructure from US airstrikes.

In January, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tasked a task force with developing a plan after the US military faced criticism over recent attacks. A A botched strike in Afghanistan Last August, 10 civilians, including seven children, were killed, and a recent investigation by the New York Times into the 2019 attack in Syria found that more civilians were killed than the military initially admitted.

“Civilian protection is a strategic priority as well as a moral imperative,” Austin wrote Thursday in a memo accompanying the action plan to senior civilian leadership and military commanders.

“Our efforts to mitigate and respond to civilian casualties directly reflect our values ​​and directly contribute to mission success,” Austin wrote.

As part of the action plan, the Pentagon will develop a Civilian Protection Center of Excellence to coordinate analysis, lessons learned and training across all military commands. The center will have around 30 dedicated staff and is expected to be operational by FY 2025.

A senior defense official who briefed reporters on the plan said one of the center’s goals is to have subject matter experts who will be a resource for commanders working during the planning phase of a strike, as well as after-action reports.

The official also said that going forward, more emphasis would be placed on exercises, training and education on reducing civilian casualties. Most of them will lead the center of excellence.

The Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan, as it is officially called, also instructs the Pentagon to create dedicated positions for civilian harm reduction efforts within commands and military services. In total, approximately 150 people will initially be dedicated to the effort, with more likely after the Pentagon studies additional manpower.

The official said one of the lessons learned by the task force that drew up the action plan was that often, people responsible for mitigating civilian casualties were doing so as a secondary task. The plan is to ensure the prevention of civilian casualties in every part of the Pentagon.

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