Mar 31, 2022
In this report, RAND researchers study the causes of civilian harm in the 2017 battle for Raqqa, Syria, and provide insights into how the U.S. Department of Defense can reduce civilian harm in future operations.
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The battle for Raqqa, Syria, seemed like a perfect storm of strategic and operational challenges. When the city was finally liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in October 2017, 60 to 80 percent of it was estimated to be uninhabitable. In fact, the battle for Raqqa is a cautionary tale about civilian harm in 21st-century conflicts.
The purpose of this report is to discuss how the U.S. military — which is the best-trained and most technologically advanced military in the world, is supported in Operation Inherent Resolve by an international coalition of more than 80 countries, and was partnered in Raqqa with a well-respected militia force on the ground — could cause significant civilian harm despite a deeply ingrained commitment to the law of war.
In this report, RAND researchers study the causes of civilian harm in Raqqa and provide insights into how the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) can reduce civilian harm in future operations.
DoD Policies and Procedures for Mitigating Civilian Harm
The Battle for Raqqa: Overview and Operational Approach
Civilian Harm in the Battle for Raqqa
The Contribution of ISIS Defensive Tactics to Civilian Harm in Raqqa
Civilian-Harm Mitigation Challenges for Air Forces
Civilian-Harm Mitigation Challenges for Ground Forces
Civilian-Harm Mitigation Challenges Working by, with, and Through Partners
Civilian-Harm Mitigation Challenges for Intelligence Efforts
Challenges Identifying, Reporting, and Investigating Civilian Harm in Raqqa
Findings and Recommendations