The review was endorsed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last month and conducted by the Inspector General of the Department of the Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said. It determined that a breakdown in communications was partly to blame for the strike, which killed 10 civilians, including seven children.
It concluded that the bombing was a tragic mistake and was not caused by misconduct or negligence. No war crime was committed in carrying out the attack Said said on Nov. 3.
“It was a mistake,” Said told reporters.
The Aug. 29 airstrike killed Zemerai Ahmadi and nine family members, including seven children. Ahmadi, 37, was a longtime employee of Nutrition & Education International, an American humanitarian organization.
Under international law—military necessity, distinction, and proportionality—broadly dictate what is considered legal use of force in armed conflict.
“Had I found an individual that failed to perform to the level of criminal misconduct, or criminal negligence, and that was the cause of failure of this whole thing, we would’ve spun that off into an investigation into an individual,” said Said.
The lieutenant general added it was execution errors and communication breakdowns that lead to the loss of civilian life, and that the conclusions of the investigation do not prevent the chain of command from performing disciplinary actions against those involved in the strike.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of Central Command, and Gen. Richard Clarke, head of Special Operations Command, reviewed Said’s findings and told Austin that they did not recommend any discipline.
“None of their recommendations dealt specifically with issues of accountability,” Kirby said. “So I do not anticipate there being issues of personal accountability to be had with respect to the August 29th airstrike.”
“We know that there will be some who don’t like this particular decision, but it wasn’t an outcome that we came to without careful thought and consideration,” added Kirby, noting that if Austin “believed that accountability was warranted and needed, he would certainly support those kinds of efforts.”
Austin has however approved recommendations for improvements in strike operations, the Pentagon said.
Steven Kwon, founder of the aid organization Zemari worked for, on Monday called the disciplinary decision shocking.
“How can our military wrongly take the lives of ten precious Afghan people, and hold no one accountable in any way?” he said. “When the Pentagon absolves itself of accountability, it sends a dangerous and misleading message that its actions were somehow justified.”
Nick Ciolino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.