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U.S. Offers Payments to Families of Afghans Killed in Kabul Drone Strike

Slate logo Slate 10/16/2021 Daniel Politi
A relative of Zemari Ahmadi is pictured through the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in a U.S. drone strike in the Kwaja Burga neighborhood of Kabul on September 18, 2021. HOSHANG HASHIMI/Getty Images © Provided by Slate A relative of Zemari Ahmadi is pictured through the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in a U.S. drone strike in the Kwaja Burga neighborhood of Kabul on September 18, 2021. HOSHANG HASHIMI/Getty Images

The United States has offered unspecified condolence payments to the families of the 10 civilians, including seven children, who were mistakenly killed in the Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul that took place shortly before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan. The Pentagon also said it’s working with the State Department to support family members who may want to relocate to the United States.

The U.S. military insisted for almost three weeks that the drone strike was justified, claiming it had stopped an attack planned for Kabul’s airport. But it later changed its tune amid an overwhelming amount of evidence. Weeks after the Pentagon acknowledged the strike had hit civilians, Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, held a virtual meeting with Steven Kwon, the founder and president of Nutrition & Education International. That was the aid organization that employed Zemari Ahmadi, the driver of the white Toyota sedan that was hit by the drone. Ahmadi was just returning home when a missile hit his car. “Dr. Kahl noted that the strike was a tragic mistake and that Mr. Zemari Ahmadi and others who were killed were innocent victims, who bore no blame and were not affiliated with ISIS-K or threats to U.S. forces,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby said that during the meeting, Kwon paid tribute to Ahmadi’s work with the group for many years as an electrical engineer “providing care and lifesaving assistance for people facing high mortality rates in Afghanistan.” The meeting ended without specifying the amount of the condolence payments. The amount of these types of condolence payments varies greatly depending on circumstances. In 2019, the Pentagon made 71 condolence payments in Afghanistan and Iraq that ranged from $131 to $35,000. The offer of payment came a month after relatives of those who were killed said they wanted compensation for the deaths and days after renewed complaints that no American officials had contacted them.

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