The Defense Department has spent nearly $31 million in payments to Iraqis or Afghans who suffered as a result of US combat operations. The payments - up to $2,500 per incident - are given as a token of sympathy or remorse toward a victim or victim's family for death, injury or property damage. US officials said individual payouts were based on local customs, and were not considered an admission of legal liability or fault. The tally was included in a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, the research arm of Congress. It covered a three-year period, from late 2002 through September 2006.