WASHINGTON – The US Defense Department said on Friday it is committed to offer condolences to the relatives of 10 people killed in a US drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan in August.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the Defense Department is also working with the State Department to help relocate surviving family members to the United States.
Kirby said the matter arose at a meeting Thursday between Defense Secretary for Policy Dr Colin Kahl and Dr Steven Kwon, founder and president of the non-profit group Nutrition and Education International.
“Dr. Kahl reiterates Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s commitment to families, including offering ex-gratia payments,” Kirby said. He did not say how much money would be given.
On August 29, an American Hellfire missile struck a car driven by Zemerai Ahmadi that had just pulled into the driveway of the Ahmadi family compound. A total of 10 family members, including seven children, died in the strike.
Weeks later, Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, called the strike a “tragic mistake” and said that innocent civilians were killed in the attack.
During the meeting on Thursday, Kwon told Kahl that Ahmadi had worked with the NEI for many years, “providing care and life-saving support for people facing high mortality rates in Afghanistan,” according to Kirby.
The US military initially defended the attack, saying it targeted a “subsidiary” of the Islamic State group and hindered the militants’ ability to conduct strikes during the chaotic final phase of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
Discrepancies quickly emerged between the Army’s depiction of the strike and the findings on the ground. The Associated Press and other news organizations reported that the driver of the targeted vehicle was a longtime employee at a US humanitarian organization. Despite the Pentagon’s claim that the vehicle contained explosives, there were no signs of a major secondary explosion.
A drone strike followed a devastating suicide bombing by an Islamic State branch that killed 169 Afghan and 13 US military personnel at a gate at Kabul airport in late August.
Last month, McKenzie said the United States was considering paying compensation to the families of drone attack victims.