New Army Doctrine Seeks to Minimize Civilian Casualties

07.20.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Both as a matter of humanitarian principle and as sound military strategy, U.S. military forces should strive to minimize civilian casualties in military operations, according to new U.S. Army doctrine published on Wednesday.

“In their efforts to defeat enemies, Army units and their partners must ensure that they are not creating even more adversaries in the process,” the new publication states.

“Focused attention on CIVCAS [civilian casualty] mitigation is an important investment to maintain legitimacy and ensure eventual success.  Failure to prevent CIVCASs will undermine national policy objectives as well as the mission of Army units, while assisting adversaries.”

So, for example, “When Army units are establishing and maintaining wide area security, it may be more important to minimize CIVCAS than to defeat a particular enemy.”

However, “While CIVCAS mitigation efforts can greatly reduce CIVCASs, it is unreasonable to expect that CIVCASs can be completely eliminated in all instances.  When CIVCASs occur, the most important part of the response is to determine the facts of the incident, including the numbers and severity of CIVCASs.”

“Recognizing that they are in a constant information battle with their adversaries regarding CIVCASs and other issues, Army units should maintain a consistent pattern of truthfulness and timeliness.”

“Army investigations [of civilian casualty incidents] should strive for integrity, credibility, and inclusion of external perspectives…. Immediate and broad denial of reports without complete and accurate information in hand can undermine credibility, especially if the investigation finds reports [of civilian casualties] were correct.”

See “Civilian Casualty Mitigation,” ATTP 3-37.31, July 2012.