The Biden administration will pay out compensation to the families of Afghans who were killed in a botched strike against a suspected terrorist suspect in Kabul a few days before the U.S. pulled out its last forces from the country.
The announcement was made Friday by Pentagon officials, reports said. The strike killed 10 civilians, seven of whom were children, in late August. In a statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Defense Department is working with the State Department to move the families out of Afghanistan to the United States.
The issue of paying compensation was introduced at a Thursday meeting between Dr. Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Dr. Steven Kwon, the founder and president of Nutrition & Education International, a charity organization that employed Zemarai Ahmadi, an aid worker killed in the drone attack, the New York Post reported.
“Dr. Kahl reiterated Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s commitment to the families, including offering ex gratia condolence payments,” Kirby noted, without saying how much money would be paid.
The strike occurred on Aug. 29, a day before the last U.S. evacuation flight left the country amid a chaotic and deadly pullout that saw 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel — 11 Marines, two U.S. Army soldiers, and a Navy corpsman — killed in a suicide bombing the day before the drone strike. A Hellfire missile was fired at a van that was being driven by Ahmadi after he drove into the family compound.
Initially, Pentagon officials said the strike was “righteous,” successfully eliminating terrorists who belonged to the group ISIS-K, the local affiliate of the international organization, and that the attack prevented a second suicide bombing.
But within days, Pentagon officials were admitting at least the possibility that the strike had gone awry.
“We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties. It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further,” Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, noted in a statement in late August.
“We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life,” he added.
Almost three weeks later, U.S. Central Command head Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. was forced to admit the Pentagon had made a “tragic mistake” while offering apologies and condolences to those killed by the strike.
Defense officials indicated that in the frenzied aftermath of the suicide bombing and as a pullout deadline approached, intelligence reports allegedly identifying ISIS-K terrorists were less clear than previously thought.
In addition, Taliban forces were encroaching on the capital city ahead of the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline that they were not willing to extend.
Ahmadi had worked for the California-based charity, which worked to feed hungry Afghans, for 14 years. In Thursday’s meeting, according to Kirby, Kwon said Ahmadi worked “providing care and lifesaving assistance for people facing high mortality rates in Afghanistan.”
The NY Post noted that relatives grieving the loss of their loved ones have pressed U.S. officials for compensation and help to leave their home country.
“Whether in America or another country, we want peace and comfort for our remaining years,” Samim Ahmadi, the 24-year-old stepson of Ahmadi, said in an interview with The Washington Post in September.
“Everyone makes mistakes. The Americans cannot bring back our loved ones, but they can take us out of here.”
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