By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 20, 2021) -- The investigation performed by U.S. Central Command to look into the Aug. 29 airstrike in Kabul will itself undergo further review, the Defense Department announced today.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby today announced that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has asked Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall to task a military officer -- three-stars or higher -- to conduct a review of the Centcom investigation.
"Part of that review will be to examine the investigation itself, the thoroughness of the investigation, to study the degree to which any policies, procedures or targeting mechanisms may need to be altered going forward, if any, and of course to then take a look at what levels of accountability might be appropriate and if so at what level," Kirby said during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
According to Kirby, the secretary of defense has asked that the review be completed within 45 days. He also said that the role of that officer would be to make recommendations, rather than to take actions. He said if the reviewing officer believes that there needs to be accountability, that should be annotated in the report when it is passed on to the secretary of the Air Force and the secretary of defense.
On Friday, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., briefed the findings of an investigation into an August 29 airstrike in Kabul, where a Hellfire missile was launched in an effort to kill ISIS-K planners, but instead killed 10 civilians.
"Having thoroughly reviewed the findings of the investigation and the supporting analysis by interagency partners, I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians -- including up to seven children -- were tragically killed in that strike," McKenzie said.
It will be this investigation that was conducted by Centcom that will undergo further review by the senior Air Force officer.
As a result of that airstrike, the Defense Department has said it is looking into ex gratia payments, or payments made out of a sense of moral obligation rather than legal requirement, to the family members of those killed. Additionally, media has reported that some of the surviving family members have expressed concerns about staying in Afghanistan and that some of those family members have expressed an interest in coming to the United States. Kirby said Centcom is now looking into both issues.
"We know that Central Command is working through how best to reach out to them for the issue of payments, but also to determine the validity of this interest in moving out," he said.
While Kirby said Centcom is still looking into both issues, and that it was too early to announce any decisions there, he did say he believes the secretary of defense would support those individuals coming to the U.S.
"I believe the secretary of defense would absolutely support, if the family wanted to leave Afghanistan and come to the United States. I believe he would support that," Kirby said. "[That is] assuming that ... all the proper legal hoops were worked through. I don't want to get ahead of a process or decision that hasn't been made yet, but I think he would absolutely consider that."