By Ebi Kesiena
The United States military has come out to apologize after finding out that its drone strike on a vehicle in August, killed 10 civilians including children who were not associated with ISIS-K terrorists.
In the final week of the US’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, ISIS K launched suicide bomb attacks in Kabul, killing 11 US soldiers and over 90 Afghans.
The US two days later, claimed it had retaliated against ISIS-K using a drone strike against a vehicle that was loading bombs heading to the Kabul airport. The US military claimed it had killed at least one ISIS terrorist.
But an investigation by the New York Times found out that the drone strike didn’t kill any terrorist, but rather two men who worked for a California based humanitarian agency and children most of which were from the same family.
Following the investigation reports, the US military launched its own investigation and now Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top General of US Central Command has announced that all of those killed in the residential compound were civilians.
McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon that the strike which he said killed seven children was a “mistake” and offered an apology.
“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 and I offer my sincere apology,” he said.
McKenzie added that he is fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.
The Pentagon’s announcement will likely fuel more criticism of the Biden administration’s chaotic evacuation of Kabul and handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan more broadly.
Confirmation of the civilian death toll also provides insight into the obstacles ahead for military and intelligence officials who will now have to fight terror threats in Afghanistan with no diplomatic or intelligence staff on the ground.
In the lead up to the strike, drone operators surveyed the courtyard for up to 4 to 5 minutes. In that time, a male driver left the vehicle. One child was parking the vehicle and other children were present in the car and the courtyard.
The military based the strike on a reasonable certainty standard to launch the strike on the vehicle. Tragically, it was the wrong vehicle.
“We didn’t take the strike because we thought we were wrong — we took the strike because we thought we had a good target,” McKenzie said. While he acknowledged that the strike “was a terrible mistake,” he said he would “not qualify the entire operation” as a failure.
The US said that in the time leading up to the strike, the US had at least 60 different intelligence reports about threat streams toward US forces at Hamid Karzai International Airport.