Policies and Practices to Protect Civilians: Lessons from ISF Operations Against ISIS in Urban Areas

The fight against ISIS posed unique challenges to the Government of Iraq (GOI), its security forces, and the coalition on how to protect civilians. ISIS’s tactics of preventing civilians from fleeing and using them as human shields, using IED—including human and vehicle borne IEDs— rigging buildings with booby traps, and using tunnels to escape or re-appear in cleared areas added to the complexities of fighting in densely-populated urban areas.
The GoI and the ISF have acknowledged the need to identify and learn ways to build trust and good relations with civilians and build capacities of its security forces to protect them. A Nineveh Police officer told CIVIC, “Before ISIS, people did not accept any security forces; there was a wall between civilians and us.”4 A lieutenant general in the MOD said, “Now we understand that the army has to work with local authorities, civilians and tribes.”5 A major general in the ISF reflected, “The government needs to be close to its citizens to avoid creating another Daesh. Daesh found a good environment because the government and its forces were not close to people.”6
This report, “Policies and Practices to Protect Civilians: Lessons from ISF Operations Against ISIS in Urban Areas” is intended to inform the institutional learning of the ISF and suggest improvements in policies, procedures, and trainings on civilian protection.

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