Pentagon admits Afghanistan drone strike which killed 10 civilians was a “horrible tragedy”
The Pentagon has confirmed that a US drone strike on Kabul last month killed 10 innocent civilians, up to seven of whom were children.
The shocking news regarding the drone strike is a complete reversal of the line initially given by senior commanders in Afghanistan, who had previously claimed the attack was a “righteous strike”.
The drone strike, which was launched on 29 August, just days before American forces were due to withdraw from the country, was initially said to have killed two ISIS-K fighters planning an attack on Kabul airport.
But Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, has now admitted: “This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake.”
McKenzie added: “As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and its tragic outcome.”
What happened with the American drone strike in Kabul?
The final days of American involvement in Afghanistan were marked by chaos and uncertainty but Friday’s news adds an extra layer of tragedy to the botched withdrawal. In an extensive report into what happened, the New York Times has released video footage showing Zemari Ahmadi, the target of the drone strike, as he went about his daily life.
But Ahmadi was no terrorist. He had actually been a long-time aid worker with an American aid group and had no links to ISIS or any other extremist groups. He was tracked by US military intelligence and was recorded filing the trunk of a white Toyota sedan with suspected explosive materials, which are now thought to have been water canisters.
Ahmadi first came under suspicion after allegedly meeting with people in what had been thought to be an ISIS safe house in Kabul. The US military has now confirmed that any fleeting interaction was coincidental and no link to the Islamic State has been found. To clarify, neither Ahmadi nor the car posed any threat whatsoever.
General McKenzie revealed that the New York Times’ investigation of video evidence from the scene was used by military investigators in the aftermath of the strike. He acknowledged that the attack had indeed killed ten innocent people.
Tragic killings mark a chaotic end to American involvement in Afghanistan
Despite the military’s admission that the strike was completely unjustified, there will still need to be a review to investigate how such a tragic error occurred. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, described the civilian deaths as a “horrible mistake,” and has ordered a review of the “accountability measures” involved.
The incident arose from the chaos around Kabul airport, which had been flooded with desperate evacuees after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in a matter of weeks. On 15 August the hard-line Islamic group captured the presidential palace and declared themselves the nation’s government once again.
On 26 August an ISIS terrorist attack targeting those attempting to flee the country had killed more than 140 people at Kabul airport. Just three days later the drone operator who had been tracking Ahmadi feared a similar attack was on the cards and opted to carry out the drone strike on the car in a residential area, where US officials claimed there was a “reasonable certainty” that no women, children or innocents would be killed.
In response to today’s news Rep. Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona has demanded answers: “I expect the department to brief us immediately on the operation, focusing on a full accounting of the targeting processes and procedures which led to the determination to carry out such a strike.”