politics

U.S. Will Not Punish Military Personnel Over Drone Strike That Killed 10 Civilians in Afghanistan

Hoshang Hashimi | AFP | Getty Images
  • The U.S. military will not punish any personnel for the drone strike that killed 10 civilians, among them as many as seven children, this summer in the capital of Afghanistan.
  • That decision was condemned by the aid organization that one of the victims worked for, which said the Pentagon has so far failed to follow through on promises to evacuate relatives of the victims and to pay compensation for their killing.
  • The American military originally had claimed that the Aug. 29 strike in Kabul killed two fighters in the ISIS-K terror group who were suspected of involvement in planning attacks on U.S. forces in that city.
  • But in reality, the victims were an aid worker and his family, including seven children, the Pentagon later admitted.
  • The strike came during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which President Joe Biden ordered in April.

The U.S. military will not punish any personnel for the drone strike this summer in the capital of Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians, including as many as seven children, NBC reported Monday.

That decision was swiftly condemned by the aid organization that one of the victims worked for, which also said the Pentagon has so far failed to follow through on promises to evacuate relatives of the victims and to pay compensation for their killing.

The American military originally had claimed that the Aug. 29 strike in Kabul killed two fighters in the ISIS-K terror group who were suspected of involvement in planning attacks on U.S. forces in that city.

But in reality, the victims were Zemari Ahmadi, who worked for the aid group Nutrition & Education International, and his family, including seven children, the Pentagon later admitted.

Two top commanders, Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie of the Marine Corps, and Special Forces Operations Command Gen. Richard Clarke of the Army, both recommended no punishment for the personnel involved in the strike, according to two Defense Department officials who spoke to NBC News.

That recommendation came after a Pentagon investigation found that the strike did not violate the laws of war.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who previously called the civilian deaths a "horrible mistake," concurred in the decision not to reprimand any personnel for the strike.

"What we saw here was a breakdown in process and execution in procedural events, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby at a press conference.

Ahmadi had worked for NEI for 15 years before his death, according to the organization.

In a statement, NEI founder and president Dr. Steven Kwon called the decision not to punish anyone for the drone strike "shocking."

"How can our military wrongly take the lives of ten precious Afghan people, and hold no one accountable in any way?" Kwon asked.

"What message is it sending to family members who lost their loved ones, and my employees who lost a beloved colleague? Their lives are at risk because of the government's actions, its false accusations, and its public announcement of compensation even though no amount has been agreed or paid to those impacted," he said.

Kwon also said, "I've been beseeching the U.S. government to evacuate directly-impacted family members and NEI employees for months because their security situation is so dire. When the Pentagon absolves itself of accountability, it sends a dangerous and misleading message that its actions were somehow justified, increasing security risks and making evacuation even more urgent."

The strike came during the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which President Joe Biden had ordered in April. The Taliban quickly toppled the Afghan government, even before U.S. troops had exited the country.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 16:Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the ongoing U.S. military operations to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Austin said that slow progress was still being made against ISIL but there have been setbacks, including the ambush of U.S.-trained fighters in Syria and the buildup of Russian forces in the country.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 16:Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the ongoing U.S. military operations to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Austin said that slow progress was still being made against ISIL but there have been setbacks, including the ambush of U.S.-trained fighters in Syria and the buildup of Russian forces in the country.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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