The U.S. military will not punish any of the military personnel involved in an errant drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 10 civilians, after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved recommendations from two top commanders.
“The secretary's not approving or calling for additional accountability measures,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday at the Pentagon in response to a question from VOA.
Pentagon officials had previously acknowledged that the strike on August 29 was a “tragic mistake.” An independent investigation led by the Air Force inspector general said the strike did not violate laws of war and was a result of “confirmation bias” rather than criminal negligence.
The strike killed at least 10 civilians, including seven children, and was carried out days after a suicide bomber outside Hamid Karzai International Airport killed at least 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
The U.S. military had initially said the strike was preventing another Islamic State-Khorasan attack on troops before admitting its mistake.
Evidence later showed that what the military had believed were suspected explosives inside a vehicle turned out to be water tanks for an aid worker’s family.
U.S.-based Nutrition and Education International founder and President Steve Kwon criticized the Pentagon on Monday, calling its decision “shocking.”
The airstrike killed NEI employee Zemari Ahmadi and nine of his family members.
“How can our military wrongly take the lives of ten precious Afghan people, and hold no one accountable in any way?” Kwon said in a statement released Monday, according to CNBC news. “What message is it sending to family members who lost their loved ones, and my employees who lost a beloved colleague?”
The Pentagon promised to pay compensation and also to help relocate abroad family members and Afghans working for NEI, but that remains stuck on determining just who is qualified, according to officials.
Earlier Monday VOA had confirmed that the recommendation to Austin from Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command who oversaw the withdrawal, did not include punishments for service members involved in the botched strike because McKenzie had found no grounds to do so.
Gen. Richard Clarke, head of Special Operations Command, also declined to recommend punishment of service members to Austin, according to Kirby.
In the past two decades, the U.S. military has killed at least hundreds of civilians by accident in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.
Specific individuals are held accountable on rare occasions, such as when the Pentagon disciplined several military personnel for their roles in an October 2015 airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 42 people.
“The U.S. makes horrible mistakes, of course, and has to own up to it,” Thomas Joscelyn, the senior editor of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal told VOA, while adding that despite errant U.S. drone strikes and civilian casualties committed by Afghan forces, “the No. 1 killer of civilians throughout that war was the Taliban.”