Protecting civilians in partnered military operations
States rarely fight alone anymore. In the Philippines, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine, across Africa, and elsewhere, whenever a security partnership is formed, there is the potential to either lessen civilian harm or worsen it. The risk of negative humanitarian consequences is all too evident on today’s battlefields.
Command leadership can often make a crucial difference in protecting civilians and upholding international humanitarian law (IHL) – the rules that govern warfare. In partnered military operations, commanders’ decisions to prioritize protection of civilians and integrate IHL into the planning and execution of military operations are critical.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s March 2022 publication, “Preventing Civilian Harm in Partnered Military Operations: A Commander’s Handbook,” aims to help military commanders do just that. As a guide for commanders, staff, and policy advisors working with other state armed forces or non-state armed groups in partnered military operations, it offers planning and decisionmaking considerations relevant to preventing civilian harm. For the United States, the handbook comes at an important time as the U.S. Department of Defense is working on a civilian harm mitigation and action response plan as well as a broader civilian harm mitigation policy.
On April 21, Brookings will host a discussion on the ICRC’s publication, the challenges and opportunities in partnered operations, and how this type of guidance can help U.S. and other decisionmakers improve protection of civilians and respect for IHL in these operations.
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President - International Committee of the Red Cross
Michael E. O’Hanlon
Director of Research - Foreign Policy
Director - Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology
Co-Director - Africa Security Initiative
Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology
Philip H. Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy
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