Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Understanding Civilian Harm in Afghanistan

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Understanding Civilian Harm in Afghanistan

Article excerpt

THE UNITED STATES Institute of Peace hosted a June 8 event in Washington, DC to discuss an Open Society Foundations (OSF) report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan titled, "The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm."

The event's objective was to demonstrate that reflecting and improving on military strategy does not have to wait until the end of current military missions, especially when there is growing popular sentiment that civilian harm is actually undermining the Afghanistan mission. "At the strategic level, too often we forget to pause and reflect, to digest and learn," said Michèle Flournoy, CEO of the Center for a New American Security and former under secretary of defense for policy.

The report focused in particular on findings from 2008 to 2012-which, according to OSF advocacy director Rachel Reid, was a "period of extremely positive lessons in many ways. The U.S. demonstrated it could put in place much improved civilian protection for a relatively low cost," through the 2009 strategy rewrite by Gen. David Petraeus. Those years featured a series of reforms, such as the implementation of civilian casualty tracking cells, tactical directives to limit and control military attacks in civilian zones, and shifting prioritization by military leaders such as Gen. …

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