24 September, 2021 – Last week, General McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, confirmed that a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 29, 2021 killed 10 civilians, including an aid worker and seven children. Those killed included Zemari Ahmadi and three of his children, Zamir (age 20), Faisal (age 16), and Farzad (age 10); Mr. Ahmadi’s cousin Naser (age 30); and children Arwin (age 7), Benyamin (age 6), Hayat (age 2), Malika (age 3), and Somaya (age 3).
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) expresses deep condolences to the families of those killed, the latest of tens of thousands of likely civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes over the last two decades. CIVIC welcomes the U.S. military’s prompt investigation, public acknowledgement, and apology, as well as reports that the U.S. military is conducting further investigations into the strike and considering offering condolence payments to the families of those harmed. CIVIC urges the Department of Defense to ensure the immediate offer of ex gratia payments to these families as well as other appropriate amends in accordance with the families’ preferences, without precluding possible subsequent reparation payments following legal investigations.
CIVIC also reminds the Department of Defense that prompt investigations, acknowledgement, and amends should not only occur in high-profile civilian harm incidents with in-depth reporting by international media. For many years, credible reports of civilian harm arising from U.S. operations around the world have been documented and submitted to the Department of Defense, yet these allegations have repeatedly gone under-investigated and unacknowledged. The investigation into the deadly Kabul strike has demonstrated that the U.S. can undertake effective investigations into civilian harm when it has the will, including by making use of credible information from the media and non-governmental organizations and including in situations where the U.S. does not have an on-the-ground presence. We urge the Department of Defense to now undertake rigorous investigations, followed by public acknowledgement and amends when harm is confirmed, in the many other cases where civilian harm from U.S. operations has been reported.
“The horrific toll on civilians from the Kabul strike is sadly not exceptional,” says CIVIC Executive Director Federico Borello. “For far too long, U.S. rhetorical commitments to the protection of civilians have not matched the reality of civilian harm and the shortcomings of the U.S. response. We urge the Biden administration to take this opportunity to truly prioritize the protection of civilians and reckon with the civilian harm caused in U.S. operations, including by committing to comprehensive responses to civilian harm characterized by robust investigations, public acknowledgement, and amends.”
The Biden administration continues its review of U.S. counterterrorism and use of force policies. In the wake of this deadly strike, and the tens of thousands of civilian casualties before it, it is imperative that the protection of civilians be prioritized in that review. CIVIC and 110+ organizations from the United States and around the world have called on President Biden to end the U.S. program of lethal strikes outside recognized battlefields, a call that we repeat today.