Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo Thursday directing the Defense Department to step up its efforts to prevent civilian casualties in U.S. military airstrikes. The initiative comes on the heels of a RAND Corporation report that found that the Defense Department's processes lead to systemic undercounting of civilian casualties in some cases.
In the memo, Austin directed Pentagon policymakers to map out in the next 90 days an implementation plan on how to reduce harm to civilians in airstrikes going forward.
"The protection of innocent civilians in the conduct of our operations remain vital to the ultimate success of our operations and as a significant strategic and moral imperative," Austin wrote.
The memo comes after the Defense Department admitted that an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August that targeted an ISIS-K terrorist actually killed 10 civilians, including 7 children. The mistake came to light in large part because of reporting from The New York Times.