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No U.S. Troops To Be Punished For Deadly Civilian Drone Strike

In a press release that took place yesterday afternoon, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced that no U.S. troops will be punished for a drone strike that occurred last August. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was in charge of conducting a review of the events, gave the heads of Central Command and Special Operations Command recommendations on how to improve Defense Department policies and procedures in order to keep civilians safe, but none of those included holding anyone accountable or punishing anyone involved.

Pentagon officials initially defended the strike by calling it a “tragic mistake.” However, Gen. Frank Mckenzie, Commander of US Central Command, later admitted the military had tracked the wrong vehicle, as they thought they had enough evidence of dangerous activity required to order a drone strike.

On August 26th, just 3 days before the fatal strike, an ISIS-K suicide bomber attacked Abbey Gate, one of the entrances to Kabul’s international airport, and killed 13 US service members as well as many Afghan civilians. This event, compounded with the growing pressure of troops about to leave Afghanistan, led to the strike taking place.

When Austin was first completing his review of the airstrike, he publicly committed to believing “leaders in this department should be held to account for high standards of conduct and leadership.” Now, however, Austin stated that there was no violation of any law, including the law of war, in the mistaken strike. Kirby said in his statement that, “In this particular case, there was not a strong enough case to be made for personal accountability. But that doesn’t mean that the department is turning a blind eye to a high standard of conduct and leadership.”

Many have already voiced their outrage and disappointment in Austin’s decision, including Dr. Steven Kwon, founder, and president of Nutrition and Education International (NEI), a non-profit focused on fighting malnutrition. Of those killed in the airstrike was Zamari Ahmadi, who worked for the organization, and members of his family. Kwon openly condemned the Defense Secretary’s decision, while also claiming the Pentagon has failed on their promise to evacuate relatives of Ahmadi and pay compensation for their killing.

Kwon said, “What message is it sending to family members who lost their loved ones, and my employees who lost a beloved colleague? Their lives are at risk because of the government’s actions, its false accusation, and its public announcement of compensation even though no amount has been agreed or paid to those impacted.”

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