Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the Pentagon ”must work harder” to prevent civilian casualties stemming from airstrikes.
Austin told reporters on Wednesday that the Department of Defense is in the midst of two reviews that will look into how airstrikes it conducts harms civilians.
According to the Military Times, one of the reviews deals with an unpublicized strike in Syria that killed more than 70 people, including women and children. The other is broader and deals with the annual amount of civilian harm from these strikes and comes as an order from Congress’ 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
”The American people,” Austin said, ”deserve to know that we take this issue very seriously. And that we are committed to protecting civilians and getting this right both in terms of how we execute missions on their behalf and how we talk about them afterwards. And I recognize that and I’m committed to doing this in full partnership with our military leaders.”
The Rand Corp., Austin said, is expected to publish the Syria review, and the congressionally mandated 2021 report is due in May.
Austin added that he looks ”forward to reading these two studies” and ”benefiting from them as we conduct operations.”
According to The Hill, the Pentagon is still answering for a drone strike it conducted in Aug. in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 10 civilians, including children, instead of what was believed to be an Islamic State target. An Air Force Inspector General report later came out, stating that errors had been made in identifying the target but suggested that no disciplinary action should be taken.
Austin emphasized that ”every civilian casualty is a tragedy” and he has ”no doubt that we can work harder, and I’d go beyond that and say we must work harder.
”I’m committed to adjusting our policies and our procedures to make sure that we improve, and I’ll be holding all our senior leaders responsible for putting those policies and procedures into effect as we go forward.”