Pentagon: Troops Tied to Botched Kabul Drone Strike That Killed 10 Civilians Will Face No Punishment
US President Joe Biden and his predecessor ordered the chaotic and bloody evacuation of the US embassy in Kabul, which drew in NATO allies including the UK. The airlift became a humanitarian disaster as thousands of Afghans tried to enter the airport and climb onto cargo planes — some clinging to the undercarriage until they fell to their deaths.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has ordered that no US armed forces personnel will face punishment for an August drone attack that killed civilians amid American withdrawal efforts.
The move was confirmed by Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby, who told reporters Monday that "none of the recommendations dealt specifically with issues of accountability".
Recommendations had been filed by US Central Command head Kenneth McKenzie and US Special Operations Command leader Gen. Richard Clarke to not undertake administrative action against those involved in the August 29 strike.
"The secretary reviewed their recommendations, I won't get into all of them, some of them are understandably classified, but he approved their recommendations", Kirby said. "I do not anticipate there being issues of personal accountability to be had with respect to the August 29 airstrike".
Kirby's confirmation came shortly after the New York Times reported
that Austin had approved the recommendation to let the service members involved off scot-free for the August air raid that killed 10 members of one family — including seven children.
The August 29 air raid was reportedly in response to a suicide bombing three days earlier at Kabul Airport that was said to have been carried out by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), an Afghan branch of Daesh*.
That attack killed 13 US military personnel and up to 170 Afghan civilians and Taliban
guards. It later emerged that many of the casualties were caused by US troops and their Afghan allies shooting into the crowd after the bomber detonated the explosives.
US President Joe Biden
— who rushed the evacuation of the US embassy in Kabul after the Pentagon-trained Afghan army collapsed following the official US withdrawal — vowed revenge for the deaths of 13 Americans.
"To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," he said.
But it was Zemaray Ahmadi, a worker for a US NGO, three of his sons and six nephews and nieces who paid the price when a missile fired from a US Air Force unmanned drone hit their Toyota automobile. Two of the victims were a boy and girl just two years old.
“This decision is shocking,” said Steven Kwon, founder and president of the California-based charity Ahmadi worked for, Nutrition & Education International (NEI). “How can our military wrongly take the lives of 10 precious Afghan people, and hold no one accountable in any way?”
30 August 2021, 15:58 GMT
An internal military investigation determined that no crimes had been committed by US forces, but left it up to Austin to make the call.
McKenzie belatedly admitted in September
that the attack had killed innocent civilians. "I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed," McKenzie said. "It was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology."
The Pentagon has since offered undisclosed compensation payments to the relatives of the victims.
“I’ve been beseeching the US government to evacuate directly impacted family members and NEI employees for months because their security situation is so dire,” Kwon said.
Last week, Kirby said Austin wanted to draw a line under the massacre "as soon as possible".
“There has been numerous and recent exchanges between us and NEI about trying to get the necessary information in place so that we can affect their safe departure and affect the ex gratia payment,” Kirby said.
* Islamic State or Daesh is banned as a terrorist group in Russia and by UN resolution.