U.S. drone strike killed 24 civilians, even as officials say no troops committed any crime

When U.S. officials announced last week that a Hellfire missile might have mistakenly killed an Afghan family, officials said the incident would not be investigated or punished.

But a senior U.S. official confirmed to The New York Times that investigators were examining the footage of the strike from U.S. drones — and had determined that no U.S. troops had committed any crime.

In all of Afghanistan, the United States is authorized to launch drones in just two circumstances. The first is when attacking terrorist convoys or convoys of insurgents using armored vehicles. The second is if somebody attacks the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, or when a U.S. drone is spotted near a compound being used by the Taliban, officials have said.

A U.S. official said that at that time in May, the strike was launched near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents have gained ground in recent years.

“The team used the best intelligence available at the time to determine that there was a gathering of between 30 and 40 insurgents near a significant element of a Taliban held compound,” an official said. “The force conducted an airstrike against the insurgent fighters, firing Hellfire missiles, and the remainder of the Taliban fighters were killed.”

“Our weapon systems were fired properly,” the official said. “We have not established any of our personnel acted incorrectly.”

Two dozen people were killed. Twenty-four of them were members of a family of four: six adults and six children.

Last week, President Donald Trump said “no people that I’m aware of” would be disciplined for the strike — or questioned about it.

In another conversation last week, according to people familiar with the transcript, Mr. Trump specifically called his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, to discuss the incident. And Secretary of Defense James Mattis reportedly told Mr. Kelly that he hadn’t been contacted by any military or intelligence officials, and that officials were not reprimanded for the strike.

The Defense Department and the White House declined to comment.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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