U.S. Pledges to Pay Family of Those Killed in Botched Kabul Drone Strike

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The Pentagon offered unspecified amounts to relatives of the 10 civilians who died successful Aug. 29 onslaught and agreed to assistance relocate those who privation to determination to the U.S.

An Afghan pistillate   whose begetter  and fiancé some  died successful  the past  U.S. drone onslaught   successful  Kabul earlier  American troops withdrew from Afghanistan.
Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Eric Schmitt

Oct. 15, 2021, 8:27 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon offered unspecified condolence payments this week to the household of the 10 civilians, including 7 children, who the subject has acknowledged were mistakenly killed connected Aug. 29 successful the past U.S. drone strike earlier American troops withdrew from Afghanistan.

In a connection released precocious Friday, the Pentagon besides said it was moving with the State Department to assistance surviving members of the household relocate to the United States.

The offers were made successful a virtual gathering connected Thursday betwixt Colin H. Kahl, the nether caput of defence for policy, and Steven Kwon, the laminitis and president of Nutrition & Education International, the assistance enactment that employed Zemari Ahmadi, the operator of a achromatic Toyota sedan that was struck by the American drone.

Senior Defense Department officials and subject commanders conceded past month that Mr. Ahmadi had thing to bash with the Islamic State, contrary to what subject officials had antecedently asserted. Mr. Ahmadi’s lone transportation to the violent radical appeared to beryllium a fleeting and innocuous enactment with radical successful what the subject believed was an Islamic State harmless location successful Kabul, an archetypal nexus that led subject analysts to marque 1 misjudgment aft different portion tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements successful the sedan for the adjacent 8 hours.

“Dr. Kahl noted that the onslaught was a tragic mistake and that Mr. Zemari Ahmadi and others who were killed were guiltless victims who bore nary blasted and were not affiliated with ISIS-K oregon threats to U.S. forces,” said the connection from John F. Kirby, the Defense Department’s main spokesman.

Mr. Kirby said Dr. Kwon had recounted Mr. Ahmadi’s enactment with the assistance radical implicit galore years arsenic an electrical engineer, “providing attraction and lifesaving assistance for radical facing precocious mortality rates successful Afghanistan.”

The Pentagon connection came aft Mr. Ahmadi’s household members successful Kabul complained that American officials had not contacted them astir relocating to the United States oregon offering condolence payments.

Pentagon officials said connected Friday that nary circumstantial magnitude for condolence payments was discussed successful Thursday’s meeting, but that it would beryllium successful aboriginal discussions betwixt the section and the assistance enactment and its lawyers, who are acting connected behalf of the household successful Afghanistan.

Congress has authorized the Pentagon to wage up to $3 cardinal a twelvemonth for payments to compensate for spot damage, idiosyncratic wounded oregon deaths related to the actions of U.S. equipped forces, arsenic good arsenic for “hero payments” to the household members of section allied forces, specified arsenic Afghan oregon Iraqi troops warring Al Qaeda oregon ISIS.

Condolence payments for deaths caused by the American subject person varied wide successful caller years. In fiscal 2019, for instance, the Pentagon offered 71 specified payments — ranging from $131 to $35,000 — successful Afghanistan and Iraq.

Almost everything elder defence officials asserted successful the hours, days and weeks aft the drone onslaught turned retired to beryllium false. The explosives the subject claimed were loaded successful the trunk of the sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire rocket were astir apt h2o bottles, and a secondary detonation successful the courtyard successful the densely populated Kabul vicinity wherever the onslaught took spot was astir apt a propane oregon state tank, officials said.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the caput of Central Command, said successful a quality conference past period that the onslaught was carried retired “in the profound belief” that ISIS was astir to onslaught Hamid Karzai International Airport, arsenic the enactment had done 3 days earlier, sidesplitting about 170 civilians and 13 U.S. troops.

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transcript

transcript

How a U.S. Drone Strike Killed the Wrong Person

A week aft a New York Times ocular investigation, the U.S. subject admitted to a “tragic mistake” successful an Aug. 29 drone onslaught successful Kabul that killed 10 civilians, including an assistance idiosyncratic and 7 children.

[explosion] In 1 of the last acts of its 20-year warfare successful Afghanistan, the United States fired a rocket from a drone astatine a car successful Kabul. It was parked successful the courtyard of a home, and the detonation killed 10 people, including 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi and 7 children, according to his family. The Pentagon claimed that Ahmadi was a facilitator for the Islamic State, and that his car was packed with explosives, posing an imminent menace to U.S. troops guarding the evacuation astatine the Kabul airport. “The procedures were correctly followed, and it was a righteous strike.” What the subject seemingly didn’t cognize was that Ahmadi was a longtime assistance worker, who colleagues and household members said spent the hours earlier helium died moving bureau errands, and ended his time by pulling up to his house. Soon after, his Toyota was deed with a 20-pound Hellfire missile. What was interpreted arsenic the suspicious moves of a violent whitethorn person conscionable been an mean time successful his life. And it’s imaginable that what the subject saw Ahmadi loading into his car were h2o canisters helium was bringing location to his household — not explosives. Using never-before seen information camera footage of Ahmadi, interviews with his family, co-workers and witnesses, we volition portion unneurotic for the archetypal clip his movements successful the hours earlier helium was killed. Zemari Ahmadi was an electrical technologist by training. For 14 years, helium had worked for the Kabul bureau of Nutrition and Education International. “NEI established a full of 11 soybean processing plants successful Afghanistan.” It’s a California based NGO that fights malnutrition. On astir days, helium drove 1 of the company’s achromatic Toyota corollas, taking his colleagues to and from enactment and distributing the NGO’s nutrient to Afghans displaced by the war. Only 3 days earlier Ahmadi was killed, 13 U.S. troops and much than 170 Afghan civilians died successful an Islamic State termination onslaught astatine the airport. The subject had fixed lower-level commanders the authorization to bid airstrikes earlier successful the evacuation, and they were bracing for what they feared was different imminent attack. To reconstruct Ahmadi’s movements connected Aug. 29, successful the hours earlier helium was killed, The Times pieced unneurotic the information camera footage from his office, with interviews with much than a twelve of Ahmadi’s colleagues and household members. Ahmadi appears to person near his location astir 9 a.m. He past picked up a workfellow and his boss’s laptop adjacent his house. It’s astir this clip that the U.S. subject claimed it observed a achromatic sedan leaving an alleged Islamic State safehouse, astir 5 kilometers northwest of the airport. That’s wherefore the U.S. subject said they tracked Ahmadi’s Corolla that day. They besides said they intercepted communications from the safehouse, instructing the car to marque respective stops. But each workfellow who rode with Ahmadi that time said what the subject interpreted arsenic a bid of suspicious moves was conscionable a emblematic time successful his life. After Ahmadi picked up different colleague, the 3 stopped to get breakfast, and astatine 9:35 a.m., they arrived astatine the N.G.O.’s office. Later that morning, Ahmadi drove immoderate of his co-workers to a Taliban-occupied constabulary presumption to get support for aboriginal nutrient organisation astatine a caller displacement camp. At astir 2 p.m., Ahmadi and his colleagues returned to the office. The information camera footage we obtained from the bureau is important to knowing what happens next. The camera’s timestamp is off, but we went to the bureau and verified the time. We besides matched an nonstop country from the footage with a timestamp outer representation to corroborate it was accurate. A 2:35 p.m., Ahmadi pulls retired a hose, and past helium and a co-worker capable bare containers with water. Earlier that morning, we saw Ahmadi bring these aforesaid bare integrative containers to the office. There was a h2o shortage successful his neighborhood, his household said, truthful helium regularly brought h2o location from the office. At astir 3:38 p.m., a workfellow moves Ahmadi’s car further into the driveway. A elder U.S. authoritative told america that astatine astir the aforesaid time, the subject saw Ahmadi’s car propulsion into an chartless compound 8 to 12 kilometers southwest of the airport. That overlaps with the determination of the NGO’s office, which we judge is what the subject called an chartless compound. With the workday ending, an worker switched disconnected the bureau generator and the provender from the camera ends. We don’t person footage of the moments that followed. But it’s astatine this time, the subject said that its drone provender showed 4 men gingerly loading wrapped packages into the car. Officials said they couldn’t archer what was wrong them. This footage from earlier successful the time shows what the men said they were carrying — their laptops 1 successful a integrative buying bag. And the lone things successful the trunk, Ahmadi’s co-workers said, were the h2o containers. Ahmadi dropped each 1 of them off, past drove to his location successful a dense vicinity adjacent the airport. He backed into the home’s tiny courtyard. Children surrounded the car, according to his brother. A U.S. authoritative said the subject feared the car would permission again, and spell into an adjacent much crowded thoroughfare oregon to the airdrome itself. The drone operators, who hadn’t been watching Ahmadi’s location astatine each that day, rapidly scanned the courtyard and said they saw lone 1 big antheral talking to the operator and nary children. They decided this was the infinitesimal to strike. A U.S. authoritative told america that the onslaught connected Ahmadi’s car was conducted by an MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired a azygous Hellfire rocket with a 20-pound warhead. We recovered remnants of the missile, which experts said matched a Hellfire astatine the country of the attack. In the days aft the attack, the Pentagon repeatedly claimed that the rocket onslaught acceptable disconnected different explosions, and that these apt killed the civilians successful the courtyard. “Significant secondary explosions from the targeted conveyance indicated the beingness of a important magnitude of explosive material.” “Because determination were secondary explosions, there’s a tenable decision to beryllium made that determination was explosives successful that vehicle.” But a elder subject authoritative aboriginal told america that it was lone imaginable to probable that explosives successful the car caused different blast. We gathered photos and videos of the country taken by journalists and visited the courtyard aggregate times. We shared the grounds with 3 weapons experts who said the harm was accordant with the interaction of a Hellfire missile. They pointed to the tiny crater beneath Ahmadi’s car and the harm from the metallic fragments of the warhead. This integrative melted arsenic a effect of a car occurrence triggered by the rocket strike. All 3 experts besides pointed retired what was missing: immoderate grounds of the ample secondary explosions described by the Pentagon. No collapsed oregon blown-out walls, including adjacent to the trunk with the alleged explosives. No motion that a 2nd car parked successful the courtyard was overturned by a ample blast. No destroyed vegetation. All of this matches what eyewitnesses told us, that a azygous rocket exploded and triggered a ample fire. There is 1 last item disposable successful the wreckage: containers identical to the ones that Ahmadi and his workfellow filled with h2o and loaded into his trunk earlier heading home. Even though the subject said the drone squad watched the car for 8 hours that day, a elder authoritative besides said they weren’t alert of immoderate h2o containers. The Pentagon has not provided The Times with grounds of explosives successful Ahmadi’s conveyance oregon shared what they accidental is the quality that linked him to the Islamic State. But the greeting aft the U.S. killed Ahmadi, the Islamic State did motorboat rockets astatine the airdrome from a residential country Ahmadi had driven done the erstwhile day. And the conveyance they utilized … … was a achromatic Toyota. The U.S. subject has truthful acold acknowledged lone 3 civilian deaths from its strike, and says determination is an probe underway. They person besides admitted to knowing thing astir Ahmadi earlier sidesplitting him, starring them to construe the enactment of an technologist astatine a U.S. NGO arsenic that of an Islamic State terrorist. Four days earlier Ahmadi was killed, his leader had applied for his household to person exile resettlement successful the United States. At the clip of the strike, they were inactive awaiting approval. Looking to the U.S. for protection, they alternatively became immoderate of the past victims successful America’s longest war. “Hi, I’m Evan, 1 of the producers connected this story. Our latest ocular probe began with connection connected societal media of an detonation adjacent Kabul airport. It turned retired that this was a U.S. drone strike, 1 of the last acts successful the 20-year warfare successful Afghanistan. Our extremity was to capable successful the gaps successful the Pentagon’s mentation of events. We analyzed exclusive information camera footage, and combined it with eyewitness accounts and adept investigation of the onslaught aftermath. You tin spot much of our investigations by signing up for our newsletter.”

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A week aft a New York Times ocular investigation, the U.S. subject admitted to a “tragic mistake” successful an Aug. 29 drone onslaught successful Kabul that killed 10 civilians, including an assistance idiosyncratic and 7 children.CreditCredit...By The New York Times. Video frame: Nutrition & Education International.

The acknowledgment of the mistaken onslaught came a week aft a New York Times probe of video grounds challenged assertions by the subject that it had struck a conveyance carrying explosives meant for the airport.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered a reappraisal of the military’s enquiry into the drone onslaught to determine, among different issues, who should beryllium held accountable and “the grade to which onslaught authorities, procedures and processes request to beryllium altered successful the future.”

The task has been assigned to Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said, the Air Force inspector general, and is expected to beryllium completed adjacent month. In the meantime, Mr. Austin, a retired four-star Army general, has ordered that immoderate further airstrikes successful Afghanistan person his approval.

“Nothing tin bring Zemari oregon these different precious radical back, but we admit the accidental to sermon these devastating losses successful item with elder Defense Department officials,” Dr. Kwon said successful a connection released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the assistance radical and the Ahmadi family. “We anticipation they volition enactment urgently to get surviving household members and impacted N.E.I. employees to information and to assistance them to rebuild their lives.”

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