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U.S. Military Will Not Punish Any Officials For Drone Attack Killing Seven Afghan Children
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley testifies on the Defense Department's budget request during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. The hearings are to examine proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Defense.
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The Pentagon does not plan on punishing any officials for a drone strike that killed ten Afghan civilians in August.

The final drone strike before the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan erroneously killed multiple civilians — including seven children. As The New York Times reported, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin left two officials in charge of any sanctions stemming from the incident; neither, however, recommended any such actions:

Mr. Austin left the final word on any administrative action, such as reprimands or demotions, to two senior commanders: Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command, and Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the head of the Special Operations Command. Both officers found no grounds for penalizing any of the military personnel involved in the strike, said John F. Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman.

“What we saw here was a breakdown in process and execution in procedural events, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “So I do not anticipate there being issues of personal accountability to be had with respect to the August 29 airstrike.”

The New York Times additionally commented that although sanctions are not common after massive civilian casualties, they are by no means unprecedented:

In two decades of war against shadowy enemies like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the U.S. military has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians by accident in war zones like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. And while the military from time to time accepts responsibility for an errant airstrike or a ground raid that harms civilians, rarely does it hold specific people accountable.

The most prominent recent exception to this trend was in 2016, when the Pentagon disciplined at least a dozen military personnel for their roles in an airstrike in October 2015 on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 42 people. But none faced criminal charges.

Since the United States military’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan following two decades of sporadic conflict, the South Asian nation — now under the control of the Taliban — is descending into further chaos. 

One CNN report noted that many parents are selling their pre-pubescent girls into marriages with older men in order to purchase food. The outlet highlighted the case of a 9-year-old girl who was sold to a 55-year-old man. “We are eight family members,” said the girl’s father. “I have to sell to keep other family members alive.”

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s banking system is poised for collapse. “Afghanistan’s financial and bank payment systems are in disarray,” said a United Nations Development Programme report. “The bank-run problem must be resolved quickly to improve Afghanistan’s limited production capacity and prevent the banking system from collapsing.”

Afghanistan has also seen additional suicide bombings. Last month, dozens of people were killed and wounded by an attack carried out by the Islamic State Khorasan on a military hospital. 

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