Pentagon Finally Responds After 10 Innocents Killed
(UnitedHeadlines.com) – A year after a bungled air strike that killed 10 Afghan civilians, the Pentagon has revealed a new plan to prevent deadly targeting errors. The controversial attack intended to hit a terrorist cell that threatened US troops at Kabul airport. Instead, it killed a local worker for a US aid group and nine others including seven children. Defense officials say the new plan will prevent this sort of blunder — or an even worse one, like what happened in Syria three years ago — from happening again.
In mid-March 2019, two USAF aircraft bombed a group sheltering in a river bank near Baghuz, Syria, killing 80 people. Unfortunately, news later emerged that only 16 of them were ISIS terrorists. The other 64 were women and children. US Central Command (CENTCOM) admitted that four of the dead were civilians but said the additional 60 “may have been” terrorists. An investigation cleared the Air Force of violating rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict despite a USAF officer who observed the strikes reporting them as a possible war crime.
Then, on August 29 last year, a USAF drone operator launched a Hellfire missile at a white Toyota Corolla outside a home in a residential suburb of Kabul. It was the last strike of the 20-year US mission in Afghanistan — and it was also wildly irresponsible. The officers who authorized the strike didn’t know who the car’s driver was. Their cameras saw him loading containers that “might have” contained explosives into the trunk of his car. He stopped at a building “believed to be” an ISIS-K safe house.
The containers actually held drinking water, the building was the home of the country director for California-based aid group Nutrition and Education International (NEI), and the driver was a local employee of NEI. The attack seriously damaged the reputation of the US military, especially when information emerged that the Pentagon had known they’d killed innocent civilians within hours but denied it for over two weeks.
Following the attack, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered military chiefs to develop a new strategy to prevent future errors. On August 25, a Pentagon spokesman told the media that Austin has approved the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan. According to Brigadier General Pat Ryder, USAF, the approach will use better oversight and data sharing to avoid civilian casualties.
What’s the Plan?
Under the plan, a new Civilian Center of Excellence will be set up as a centralized source of expert knowledge on how military operations affect — and harm — civilians. Around 150 specially trained staff will operate the center, which will be able to deploy field teams to US military commands like CENTCOM. Admitting that avoiding civilian casualties (which under the laws of armed conflict must be proportional to the military value of an operation) “has not always been consistent” across the Defense Department, Ryder said the new plan will prioritize civilians in the planning and conduct of future operations.
Ryder said the protection of civilians is “fundamentally consistent” with the use of US military force, and said the new plan will improve the Defense Department’s ability to monitor and avoid strikes on innocent people. If he’s right, this move will be a major benefit to deployed forces. Careless targeting has provoked multiple attacks on US troops. Better processes won’t just protect civilians. They’ll protect our soldiers, too.
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