Small Wars Journal

After Bloody Insurgent Wars, Pentagon Launches Effort to Prevent Civilian Deaths

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 4:02am

After Bloody Insurgent Wars, Pentagon Launches Effort to Prevent Civilian Deaths by Missy Ryan – Washington Post

The Pentagon has launched a major examination of civilian deaths in military operations, responding to criticism that it has failed to protect innocent bystanders in counterterrorism wars worldwide.


The far-reaching initiative to create the military’s first-ever policy on civilian casualties, which senior Pentagon officials began last year, seeks to answer a central question: Why is the military’s estimate of civilian deaths so much smaller than outside tallies?


Last week, the Pentagon reported that 1,190 civilians had been killed by American strikes in Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the campaign against the Islamic State in 2014. Airwars, a respected monitoring group, put the figure at at least 7,478 dead, more than six times as high.


The effort is underway as the Pentagon races to conclude its campaign against the militant group, unleashing a torrent of airstrikes ahead of President Trump’s ordered withdrawal from Syria. While officials have described the targeting of the Islamic State as the most precise in history, a high civilian death toll has fueled questions about whether the president’s bare-knuckled approach has resulted in greater loss of life.


Over the past year, officials from across the military have reviewed the way the Pentagon plans and conducts airstrikes, its procedures for handling allegations of civilian deaths, and decisions about when to acknowledge errant strikes. The assessment, which includes a classified study commissioned by Gen. ­Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comes as lawmakers press the military to improve its handling of noncombatant deaths…

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