WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said on Monday that no US troops or officials would face disciplinary action for a drone strike in Kabul in August that left 10 Afghan civilians dead, including seven children.
Spokesman John Kirby said Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin had received a high-level review of the strike that made no recommendation of accountability.
“There was not a strong enough case to be made for personal accountability,” Kirby said.
Aimal Ahmadi, 32, who lost his three-year-old daughter, his brother and six nephews and nieces in the strike, expressed anger at the decision on Tuesday.
“God will take revenge,” Ahmadi said, adding “what if the US had lost a child? What would the reaction have been?” The Taliban urged Washington to reverse the decision, with a spokesman saying the US should punish the culprits and compensate the victims.
The August 29 drone strike took place in the final days of the US-led evacuation of Kabul after the Taliban seized control of the country.
US officials said they had intelligence of a possible Islamic State attack on the evacuation operations at Kabul airport, and launched a missile from a drone at a target that was thought to be a car laden with munitions.
In fact, they struck a family that included an Afghan man who worked for a US aid group and seven children.
In early November, an initial report carried out by the US Air Force inspector general, Lieutenant General Sami Said, called the strike tragic, but “an honest mistake”. The review by Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Special Operations Command chief General Richard Clarke made use of Said’s report and detailed recommendations on procedures for future drone strikes.
But it made no call for anyone to be punished for the mistake.
“What we saw here was a breakdown in process, in execution and procedural events, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership,” said Kirby.
If Austin “believed... that accountability was warranted, he would certainly support those kinds of efforts,” Kirby added.
The strike killed Zemari Ahmadi, an employee of US-based Nutrition and Education International, and nine members of his family.
Last month, NEI founder and president Steve Kwon called the Pentagon’s investigation into the incident “deeply disappointing and inadequate”. The Pentagon promised to pay compensation and also to help relocate family members and Afghans working for NEI overseas, but that remains stuck on determining just who qualifies, according to officials.
Kirby said they are still discussing arrangements with Kwon.