Pentagon holds first meeting about compensation payment with employer of Afghan civilian killed in US drone strike

A senior Pentagon official held a virtual meeting about a potential compensation payment for the family of Zamarai Ahmadi, an Afghan civilian who was one of 10 people killed in a US drone strike in late August, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Friday.

The discussion, held Thursday with the head of the charity that employed Ahmadi, focused on a compensation payment for his family and their desire to relocate to the United States. Kirby said no formal agreement has been reached at this stage.

Participants in the meeting included Steven Kwon, the founder and CEO Nutrition and Education International, which Ahmadi worked for and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, Kirby added.

“Dr. Kahl noted that the strike was a tragic mistake and that Mr. Ahmadi and others who were killed were innocent victims who bore no blame and were not affiliated with ISIS-K or threats to US forces,” Kirby said.

Ahmadi’s niece, Malika, as well as her uncle, her seven cousins, and another child were killed in the strike. She was just two years old.

“They are, all of them, innocent, like my cute daughter … she was so lovely,” Emal Ahmadi, Zamarai Ahmadi’s brother, told CNN last month.

The Defense Department, which handles compensation payments through its regional combatant commands, has not been able to speak directly with Ahmadi’s family because there are no US troops in Afghanistan to lead the discussion. Also complicating the conversation is the family’s desire to relocate to the United States, a decision handled by the State Department, not the Pentagon.

“Dr. Kwon told Mr. Ahmadi’s story of working with NEI over many years, providing care and lifesaving assistance for people facing high mortality rates in Afghanistan, and NEI’s and Dr. Kwon’s pledge to honor the memory of Mr. Ahmadi and his family members and others who were killed in the strike,” Kirby said.

Ahmadi was one of 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, killed in a drone strike during the final days of the US evacuation and withdrawal from Afghanistan. Initially, the Pentagon defended the strike, pointing to secondary explosions as proof that there was explosive material in Ahmadi’s car, even as local reports emerged that civilians had been killed.

Nearly three weeks later, the leader of US Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, admitted that the strike was a “tragic mistake” following an investigation into the circumstances around the strike. Shortly after the release of the findings, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin instructed the Secretary of the Air Force to appoint someone to review the investigation within 45 days, including the facts and circumstances around the strike. Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said was tasked to lead the investigation.

At the end of September, Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would support the relocation of the family to the United States. Kahl reiterated that support in Thursday’s meeting with Kwon.

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