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In 1991, the US-led coalition in Iraq led a precise and decisive campaign that was described as a new way of war: technologically advanced forces working with networked intelligence and precision weapons. More than 30 years later, there is now another “new way of war”: working with partner forces. This approach is seen in all the major armed conflicts today: Israel, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Countries such as the US and UK have long provided security assistance to a large set of countries, aiming to improve the capacity and proficiency of the recipient nations’ security forces.

However, when a partner is conducting combat operations, that assistance can lead to legal, moral, and reputational risks for the assisting state, resulting from humanitarian concerns such as civilian casualties or violations of international humanitarian law (IHL). For example, the US has provided weapons, training, intelligence, and refueling to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and the UN and others have raised concerns about the lack of discrimination and proportionality in air strikes. This situation has affected the perception of US legitimacy and tarnished the US’s reputation.

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Cleared for Public Release.


  • Pages:
  • Document Number: DMM-2024-U-037497-Final
  • Publication Date: 1/30/2024