No Troops Disciplined in US Strike Killing Afghan Civilians

WASHINGTON (AP) — No U.S. troops involved in the August drone strike that killed innocent Kabul civilians and children will face disciplinary action, U.S. defense officials said Monday.

According to officials, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the recommendations of the Generals in charge of U.S. Central Command & Special Operations Command regarding the discipline matter. This was based upon the results from an independent Pentagon Review that was released last month.

Austin endorsed the review by Air Force Lieutenant General Sami Said in November. It found that there had been communication breakdowns and difficulties in identifying the target and verifying it. The bombing killed 10 civilians including seven children. He concluded, however that the strike had been a terrible mistake. It was not due to misconduct or negligence.
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Austin asked Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of Central Command, and Gen. Richard Clark, head of Special Operations Command, to review Said’s conclusions and come back to him with recommendations. The two commanders agreed with Said’s findings, and did not recommend any discipline, officials said, adding that Austin endorsed their decisions. They spoke anonymously to discuss unpublished decisions. Austin’s latest endorsement was first reported by The New York Times.

Zemerai Aziz and nine other family members were killed when a drone struck a Toyota Corolla sedan in white. The strike, which occurred on Aug. 29, resulted in the deaths of Zemerai Ahmadi as well as seven children. Ahmadi (37 years old) was an American humanitarian organisation employee for many years.

After an Islamic State suicide attacker killed 13 U.S. troopers and 169 Afghans at Kabul Airport Gate, intelligence on the potential danger of this car emerged. The U.S. was working to evacuate thousands of Americans, Afghans and other allies in the wake of the collapse of the country’s government.

Said said that U.S. troops believed that the car that was being followed by them was an imminent danger and needed to strike it to prevent it from getting closer to the airport. Said concluded that although there was more doubt about the bombing than previously thought, better communication among those who made the strike decision as well as other support personnel may have helped to prevent it.

He made a number of recommendations, including that more be done to prevent what military officials call “confirmation bias” — the idea that troops making the strike decision were too quick to conclude that what they were seeing aligned with the intelligence and confirmed their conclusion to bomb what turned out to be the wrong car.

He also suggested that the military have personnel with them on strike teams, so they can actively challenge such conclusion. The military should improve their procedures so that innocent civilians and children aren’t present when they launch a sensitive strike.

Officials said that McKenzie and Clarke largely agreed with Said’s recommendations.

Although the U.S. has begun to make financial payments to relatives and survivors of those who were killed in Afghanistan and to help them escape, nothing is finalized.


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