No U.S. Troops Will Be Punished For Botched Afghan Drone Strike Which Killed 10 Civilians

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has accepted recommendations that no U.S. military personnel be disciplined for the errant Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians, including an Afghan employee of a U.S. aid organization and seven children, a senior Pentagon official said Monday.

Military officials had said previously that the attack, conducted in the waning hours of U.S. efforts to leave Afghanistan, was not the result of criminal negligence. In November, the Air Force inspector general who led an independent investigation of the incident said that while the strike did not violate the laws of war, the evidence suggested that mistakes were made as a result of what he called confirmation bias on the part of the analysts and commanders involved.

That review did not recommend any punishments either, despite Pentagon leaders’ earlier admission that the strike was a “tragic mistake.”

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversaw the operation, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Austin’s decision was first reported by the New York Times.

The botched strike was carried out during a chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan, occurring just days after a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, killing 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 Afghans.

The military officials who approved the Aug. 29 strike — who have not been identified publicly — believed they were targeting an operative of ISIS-Khorasan, the Islamic State’s arm in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But as evidence later showed, the suspected explosives they believed to be inside a white Toyota Corolla proved to water tanks for the aid worker’s family.

Top U.S. military leaders initially defended the operation as a “righteous strike.” But as more details emerged revealing the extent of the error, the Pentagon promised to make “condolence payments” to the victims’ families.

As of last week, those payments had not yet been issued.

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