A drone strike in Kabul last month killed 10 civilians, including seven children. The Pentagon contends that the Aug. 29 strike targeted an Islamic State suicide bomber which they said was an imminent threat to the last stages of the U.S.-led withdrawal of troops at the Kabul airport.
As reports began emerging of the civilian casualties, the head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, continued to describe the attack as “righteous.”
At the time of the attack, before confirming the civilian casualties, McKenzie remained confident that the strike had prevented an imminent threat to the military forces at the airport.
Following an investigation, however, McKenzie admitted the worst. “Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake,” he told reporters.
The general now believes that it is unlikely that any Afghans killed were members of the local Islamic State affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan, or that they posed any threat to U.S. troops.
Questions about future strikes
The murder of civilians in the strike carried out by a drone based outside of Afghanistan has raised concerns about further U.S. counter-terrorism strikes. Since last month’s withdrawal, intelligence gathering has almost been eliminated in the country.
Confirmation of the civilian deaths provides additional fuel for critics of the poorly-planned, chaotic U.S. withdrawal of U.S. forces, which left behind Americans and Afghan allies.
Additionally, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the drone strike had killed a man identified as “Mr. Ahmadi,” who was working for a non-profit called Nutrition and Education International.
“We apologize, and we will endeavor to learn from this horrible mistake,” Austin said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, seemed to place blame on the fog of war as he acknowledged in a statement that the civilian deaths in the drone strike were “heart-wrenching.”
“In a dynamic high threat environment, the commanders on the ground had the appropriate authority and had reasonable certainty that the target was valid,” Milley said.
McKenzie played down the impact the civilian casualties would have on future actions in Afghanistan. “I don’t think you should draw any conclusions about our ability to strike in Afghanistan against ISIS-K targets in the future based on this particular strike,” he said.
The botched drone strike laid bare the failure of the final military strike of the war in Afghanistan. Leaders worldwide have condemned the strike that killed 10 members of one family in a residential area of Kabul.
According to other members of the family, the youngest victims of the drone strike were two 2-year-old girls.
The latest gaffe of the Biden administration closely follows the deadly attack carried out by gunmen and two suicide bombers outside the Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport. The attacks killed 13 U.S. troops as well as at least 60 Afghans.
The U.S. is reportedly considering ‘reparations’ for the deadly drone strike.