The Pentagon must come up with a plan to deal with the problem within three months from the defense secretary. “Protecting innocent civilians in the conduct of our operations remains vital to the ultimate success of the operations.”
Austin’s letter comes on the day that research firm RAND Corporation is issuing a critical report on the US military’s handling of such incidents. When planning attacks, defense would focus on the enemy in such a way that it “neglects the wider civilian picture”. That could lead to civilian deaths, the researchers say.
The letter is Austin’s most sweeping move to date on the issue, which has been particularly focused on a US airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of civilians.
In addition, according to the report, the army is not conducting “an adequate and consistent investigation” into the incidents. According to the researchers, soldiers who would have made reports of civilian deaths got the idea that they had ended up in a cover-up.
It is therefore unknown exactly how many civilians have died in recent years as a result of actions by the US military.
Lack of information
The New York Times reported late last year that US military forces often base their bombings in countries such as Iraq and Syria on flawed intelligence.
A US military spokesman said in response that “even the best technology in the world” cannot prevent mistakes from being made, for example by misinterpreting intelligence. “We’re trying to learn from those mistakes,” he said at the time.