‘Throw dust in the eyes of the public’

‘Throw dust in the eyes of the public’

Irina Taran & Elizaveta Komarova

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin instructed the Pentagon to develop an action plan “to reduce damage to civilians” during US military operations. The department noted that the changes in the work “should be structural”, and the protection of civilians “remains a key factor in the ultimate success” of the country’s military operations. According to experts, this Pentagon initiative is primarily an attempt to improve its own image against the backdrop of a resonant attack in Kabul last August, when local residents were killed, as well as a desire to legitimize Washington’s military interventions in the eyes of the world community.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has directed the Pentagon to develop an action plan “to reduce damage to civilians” during US military operations abroad.
“This action plan outlines the steps that the Department will take, as well as the resources that will be required to implement the relevant recommendations, based on recent civilian damage studies that were completed at the request of the Department of Defense,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby explained.
The protection of civilians “remains a key factor in the ultimate success” of United States military operations, he said.
“As the Minister has repeatedly pointed out, this is a strategic and moral imperative,” Kirby said.
The Pentagon also clarified that the action plan was developed, including on the basis of a study by the RAND Corporation.
“Despite the fact that the Department of Defense has committed itself to the implementation of a number of norms and procedures related to the protection of civilians, weaknesses and inconsistencies remain,” said Michael McNerney, RAND senior researcher.
According to him, the department is not sufficiently organized and provided with resources to properly respond to “incidents associated with harm to the civilian population.”
At the same time, McNerney noted that assessing and investigating the full extent of the damage caused to the civilian population after US military operations is “critical in order to help the US Armed Forces fulfill their responsibility to protect them.”
“The Department of Defense will need to make improvements in order to address the problems associated with damage to the civilian population, at the level of institutional, and not just operational changes,” stated a senior researcher at RAND.
The Pentagon recognized such conclusions as fair.
“(Changes. – RT ) must be structural. It is necessary to consider the full range of how the Department of Defense conducts operations (in some cases lethal) in the context of damage to the civilian population, ”the agency quotes the words of an unnamed senior Pentagon official.
The US Department of Defense also added that Lloyd Austin has already ordered the creation of a center of excellence for the protection of civilians.
“According to the minister, the combat commands have different processes and even different schedules. Standardizing the process will mean providing proper feedback to the participants in operations, intelligence analysts and those involved in the aftermath, ”the US Department of Defense said in a statement.
“Visibility of Violent Activity”
Experts interpret the new initiatives of the head of the Pentagon primarily as a reaction to discontent in society, which persists after the US drone strike on Kabul on August 29, 2021 and the death of local residents because of this.
Recall that in September last year, the United States claimed responsibility for this “erroneous” attack and civilian casualties. As Austin said at the time, the investigation revealed that ten civilians, including seven children, had died because of the US strike. The head of the Pentagon called this a “terrible mistake” from which the US military will “try to learn from.” He also urged “not to allow the recurrence of such situations.”
Later, in December, John Kirby said that the Pentagon would not prosecute the American military personnel involved in the incident.
According to political scientist Alexander Asafov, after these events, Austin’s new initiatives to protect the civilian population are an attempt to “mitigate reputational losses.”
“Apparently, the United States realizes that this story is the most resonant of all, when the Pentagon had to admit the guilt of its soldiers for killing civilians during a military operation abroad,” Asafov said in a conversation with RT.
A similar position is shared by the director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for the Study of the United States at Moscow State University, Yuri Rogulev.
“Now the Pentagon is creating the appearance of violent activity in order to reduce the public outcry that still exists after the airstrike on Kabul. What RAND very modestly called “weak points” in the work of the department was known without any research – it was enough to follow the events in Afghanistan, as well as in other countries where the United States was fighting, ”Rogulev explained in an interview with R.T.
The situation in the SAR
Political analysts remind that in recent years, the civilian population has suffered from the actions of the US military not only in Afghanistan, but also in Syria.
As Dmitry Polyansky, First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, said the day before, since January 21, local paramilitary formations, with the support of the aviation of the US Armed Forces, have been conducting a military operation accompanied by bloody battles, including in densely populated areas of Syria.
“As a result of intense air strikes in Hasek, the buildings of the technical college and the economic faculty of the local university were destroyed, the fuel depot was destroyed, and the city’s electricity supply was cut off. It is difficult to determine the exact number of civilian deaths at the moment,” he said.
According to Polyansky, Russia is extremely alarm-ed by possible indiscriminate strikes by the US Air Force, after which “mass c-ivilian casualties have been noted more than once.”
The First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN also noted that the “lofty rhetoric of the United States” about the protection of civilians during military operations in reality “once again radically diverged from their own actions.”
“The ignorance of measures to protect civilians is eloquently evidenced by the massive outflow of civilians from the battle zone (the Syrian city of Hasakeh. – RT ): more than 45 thousand people, according to the UN OCHA,” Polyansky said.
He also recalled that during the US bombing in Baguz in 2019, at least 80 people were killed, “most of them women and children.”
“At the same time, no one was punished, despite Washington’s admission of guilt. This is about the high American standards for bringing to justice, which we hear so often from Western colleagues, ”he emphasized.
Dmitry Polyansky also called on members of the organization’s Security Co-uncil to seek from the Un-ited States a detailed acc-ount of civilian casualties, “any cases of violation of international humanitarian law and the punishment of those responsible for this.”
Earlier, in December 2021, The New York Times, citing US Department of Defense documents, reported that the Pentagon significantly downplayed the number of civilian deaths in airstrikes in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The publication noted that the US military claimed the deaths of 1,417 civilians as a result of US airstrikes as part of the fight against IS in Iraq and the SAR and 188 casualties among Afghan civilians due to US air operations in Afghanistan.
“Throw dust in the eyes of the public”
According to experts, the United States, due to its own ill-considered actions during military campaigns in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, suffered “great image damage.”
As Konstantin Blokhin, a researcher at the Center for Security Studies of the Russian Academy of Scien-ces, noted in an interview with RT, it was after the Afghan events that Washin-gton realized the need to rehabilitate itself in the ey-es of the world community.
“Then they had to admit their guilt in the murder of innocent citizens. At the same time, the Pentagon does not talk about many things, including the crimes of the US military in Iraq and Syria. The US Department of Defense does not talk about how American soldiers could mistakenly kill several families at once, confusing them with terrorists, ”says Blokhin.
However, according to him, in reality, Washington is little concerned about the fate of the civilian population.
“For them, the main thing is that all these US military interventions look legitimate and they are supported by allies. The Pentagon does not think about the protection of civilians. His new initiatives are just an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the public and improve his image, ”Blokhin believes.
He does not rule out that the proposals of the head of the US Department of Defense to protect the population during US military operations may indicate Washington’s plans for further interventions.
“This is an attempt to outline a plan that the Pentagon can adhere to during possible military operations outside the country. The goal of the department is to ensure that Washingt-on’s actions do not irritate the public,” the analyst argues.
Alexander Asafov, in turn, believes that the Pentagon’s strategy to protect the civilian population suggests that the department actually recognizes that such tragic incidents will be repeated.
“For this reason, Washi-ngton needs some kind of coherent, intelligible protocols that would spell out the algorithm for the actions of the US military,” Asafov said. At the same time, he predicts that the effectiveness of such a program will tend to zero.
“Firstly, the Pentagon’s initial action plans are unlikely to be applicable to a specific situation, and secondly, the department, most likely, will not be able to do anything in practice. The fact is that the US Department of Defense allows itself to finance any projects, even the most paradoxical ones , and at the same time does not strive for any tangible results,” Asafov concluded.

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