A Defense Department official spoke Thursday with the nonprofit organization that employed the aid worker targeted and killed in the botched Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan. ++ TO HOLD FOR AFGHANISTAN DRONE STRIKE STORY BY KATHY GANNON. PLEASE ADD A SECOND SENTENCE ONCE STORY IS EDITED ++ Amal Ahmadi, 32, holds a picture of his slain brother Zemerai Ahmadi at the family house in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) Bernat Armangue/AP

Defense official speaks to employer of Afghan aid worker killed in botched drone strike

Mike Brest October 15, 09:12 PM October 15, 09:12 PM

A Defense Department official spoke Thursday with the nonprofit organization that employed the aid worker targeted and killed in the botched Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan.

Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, met virtually with Dr. Steven Kwon, the founder and president of Nutrition and Education International, regarding the death of Zemari Ahmadi and nine members of his family, according to statements from the DoD and NEI.

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Kahl “reiterated his sincere condolences on behalf of the Department of Defense for the loss of life that resulted from the August 29 strike in Kabul,” the DoD readout of the conversation said.

Kahl reaffirmed that Ahmadi did not have ties to ISIS-K or any threats to U.S. forces, the DoD noted.

The U.S. drone strike in late August happened as the military was conducting the largest-ever noncombatant evacuation operation of Americans, third-country nationals, and Afghan allies from Kabul’s airport.

The Taliban overthrew the U.S.-backed Afghan government and its forces in a weeks-long offensive ahead of the U.S. withdrawal deadline of Aug. 31.

After an investigation, U.S. Central Command acknowledged on Sept. 17 that Ahmadi was not a terrorist posing a risk to U.S. troops and called the strike, which killed seven children, “a mistake.”

Kwon said Ahmadi was “like a son to me,” adding, “When Zemari started with NEI in 2006, he was a handyman who had never attended school. But he was extraordinarily smart, a gifted engineer, and he became an essential part of our operations and successes.”

NEI also said its “primary concern” is for the “safety and welfare of Mr. Ahmadi’s remaining relatives, as well as for NEI’s Afghan colleagues,” and the group asked for military officials to “urgently evacuate and resettle Ahmadi family members and NEI’s employees at risk, compensate survivors, and conduct a meaningful investigation into the strike.”

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin previously indicated his support for relocating the victims’ families to the United States and for offering ex gratia condolence payments. Kahl reiterated that sentiment to Kwon during their conversation.

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