January 28, 2022

Senators Warren and Murphy, Rep. Khanna Release Statement on Pentagon’s Directive to Prevent Civilian Harm

WASHINGTON—U.S Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, along with U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), released the following statement on the directive from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III for the United States military to strengthen its efforts to prevent civilian deaths:

“We’re glad the Biden administration recognizes that change is desperately needed in the way the U.S. military approaches the use of force when there is risk of harm to civilians. Civilian casualties as a result of U.S. combat operations are both a moral stain and a national security liability, and more must be done to prevent them. In order for the reform process Secretary Austin laid out to be effective, the administration must prioritize protection of civilians and adherence to domestic and international law, all while relying on non-lethal tools to address conflict and fragility, and only using force as a last resort. We look forward to continue working with the administration as they revise U.S. counterterrorism policy,” said Warren, Murphy, and Khanna.

Senator Warren has long led the call for accountability for U.S. military operations that kill innocent civilians: 

  • Earlier this month, Senators Warren, Murphy, and Khanna led nine other senators and 38 members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Biden expressing concern about the United States’ targeting criteria for drone strikes that has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians, with little accountability.  
  • In November 2021, Senator Warren sent a letter to Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chairman of SASC, requesting that the Committee launch a formal inquiry to review the findings and implications of a New York Times report detailing how the U.S. military hid an airstrike in Baghuz, Syria that killed dozens of civilians.
  • Following the August 29, 2021, unmanned airstrike that killed ten civilians in Afghanistan, Senator Warren and Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Secretary Austin to use the tragedy of civilian harm to look into the Pentagon’s history of accidentally targeting innocent civilians and significantly under-investigate and undercount civilian casualties. 
  • In July 2021, Senator Warren and Representative Khanna sent a letter urging Secretary Austin to review why significant undercounts of civilian casualties persist and why DoD made zero ex gratia payments to grieving civilians last year despite authorization and funding from Congress. 
  • In June 2020, Senator Warren and Representative Ro Khanna introduced the Protection of Civilians in Military Operations Act, bicameral legislation that would enhance reporting on civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military operations, improve investigations into civilian casualties, and strengthen resources for the Department's policies and practices relating to civilian casualty prevention and responses.