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Biden admin to track civilians worldwide killed or hurt with American weapons

by

Daily Caller News Foundation

The State Department is leading a first-of-its-kind initiative to investigate reports of harm to civilians by foreign forces wielding American-made weapons, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

A State Department cable went out to all foreign embassies and consulates on Aug. 23 detailing the new Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance (CHIRG) that provides an action plan for responding when partner governments are suspected of using American weapons to injure or kill civilians, the Post reported. The plan is the first formal system seeking to address collateral damage associated with U.S. arms exports and potentially punish abuses perpetrated by partner nations.

In the case of substantiated reports, the cable recommended actions including suspending arms sales, according to the Post.

While the State Department will lead the initiative, it involves major contributions from the Department of Defense (DOD), the intelligence community and other U.S. agencies.

The Pentagon unveiled its own plan in August of 2022 aimed at minimizing and appropriately responding to civilian deaths and injuries as a result of U.S. operations abroad. Over decades of counterinsurgency operations, botched targeting or inattentive planning has resulted in several unwanted incidents, including the mistaken bombing in 2021 of a U.S. employee in Afghanistan and a 2017 airstrike on an Islamic State weapons cache that killed more than 100 Iraqi civilians, according to the Post.

But, the State Department program is meant to increase transparency when nations benefiting from U.S. weapons sales or leases use those weapons to harm cilians, whether intentionally or not.

In 2019, for example, Saudi Arabia dropped American-made bombs on villages in Yemen killing 200 civilians, after which the Trump administration suspended certain weapons sales to Riyadh, according to the Post.

“It is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective,” Mira Resnick, a senior official in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said, according to the Post. “It is more effective for U.S. national security if our partners are using these items responsibly.”

The Biden administration has notified Congress of about $81 billion in foreign military sales so far in 2023, according to the Forum on the Arms Trade.

Under the new system, the American agencies involved will collect reports from diplomatic or intelligence sources, the United Nations, media and civil society organizations, the Post reported, citing instructions contained in the August cable. If a claim can be confirmed, officials will recommend avenues of response for department leaders, or the deputy secretary of state if the incident warrants.

Consequences for the offending governments could range from renewed training and education to more serious actions like prohibiting future arms sales or mounting a diplomatic response, according to the Post.

The new guidelines create an official process for activities that the State Department previously conducted in a more reactionary manner and “isn’t dependent upon workload, bandwidth, or political will to go out and investigate incidents,” Christopher Le Mon, a senior official in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor office, told the Post.

The State Department and DOD did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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