Following the bloody rampage allegedly perpetrated by rogue U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales two weeks ago, in which at least sixteen villagers were shot or stabbed in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province, the U.S. has given victims' families $50,000 for each relative who died, according to Afghan and American officials.
The "condolence" or "solatia" payments, funded mostly by the Defense Department, were distributed on Saturday by American military officers at the office of the governor of Kandahar Province. Haji Agha Lalai, a member of the Kandahar provincial council, also confirmed that others wounded in the attacks were each given $11,000. As per American policy, compensation payments are kept private, but reports have the total payouts in the neighborhood of $900,000. The average annual income in Afghanistan is around $425.
An anonymous U.S. official in Kabul also confirmed the payments, saying "The amount reflects the devastating nature of the incident." The term "blood money" has a pejorative connotation, but it's a common way to settle disputes resulting from violent deaths in Afghanistan. In an understandably tense atmosphere, it was important that the U.S. show compassion. Victims' relatives were told the money was "an assistance from Obama," according to Haji Jan Agha, who lost cousins in the massacre. American officials were also careful with their language, choosing to emphasize that the payments were made out of compassion for the victims, and not "compensation."
Meanwhile, the thirty-eight-year-old Bales, who was serving his fourth combat tour overseas, is locked up at Fort Leavenworth, facing seventeen counts of premeditated murder and other charges, handed down on Friday. Proving Bales' crimes could be challenging, as no autopsies were conducted, due in part to the quick burial of victims in accordance with Islamic custom, and procuring the testimony of witnesses could also prove difficult.