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Significant Plan by Pentagon to Protect Civilians

The Pentagon is setting up a new center 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 US airstrike in Kabul last August that killed 10 civilians, including children, during the final chaotic days of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The new Civilian Protection Center of Excellence will initially start operations in the 2023 budget year that begins Oct. 1, and would be fully staffed and working by 2025. The center will put new personnel in each of the combatant commands that are in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific, South America and US 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.

The plan also calls 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. One key goal is to prevent "confirmation bias," which is the tendency to seek out information that confirms one's existing beliefs, rather than seeking out information that might contradict them.

The plan also includes measures to 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.

The new plan is a welcome step forward, but it is important to note that it will take time to implement and will require sustained commitment from the Pentagon. It is also important to hold the military accountable for civilian casualties, even when they are accidental.

Here are some additional thoughts on the new plan:

  • The plan is a good start, but it is important to ensure that the new center is adequately funded and staffed. It is also important to ensure that the center has the authority to make changes to military policies and procedures.

  • The plan should include a strong focus on prevention. This includes better intelligence gathering and analysis, as well as better training for military personnel on how to avoid civilian casualties.

  • The plan should also include a strong focus on accountability. This includes investigating all civilian casualties and taking appropriate disciplinary action when necessary.

  • The plan should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it is meeting its objectives.

The Pentagon's new plan is a positive step forward, but it is important to remember that it will take time and effort to implement and to achieve its goals. It is also important to hold the military accountable for civilian casualties, even when they are accidental.


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