The Pentagon withdrew from its defense of a drone strike that killed several civilians in Afghanistan last month, and announced on Friday that a review revealed that only civilians were killed in the strike, not an Islamic State extremist as was initially believed. .
“The attack was a tragic mistake,” Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, told a Pentagon news conference.
For days after the Aug. 29 attack, Pentagon officials claimed it was carried out correctly, despite the fact that ten civilians were killed, including seven children. News organizations later raised doubts about that version of events, reporting that the driver of the target vehicle was a longtime employee of a U.S. humanitarian organization and citing the absence of evidence to support the Pentagon’s claim that the vehicle contained explosives.
McKenzie said the vehicle was struck “with the conviction that it posed an imminent threat.”
“I am now convinced that up to 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that attack,” McKenzie said. “Furthermore, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K, or a direct threat to US forces,” he added, referring to the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
McKenzie apologized for the mistake and said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the victims’ families.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters two days after the attack that it appeared to have been a “fair” attack and that at least one of the people killed was a “facilitator” of the Islamic State group. Affiliate of Afghanistan, which killed 169 Afghan civilians and 13 US servicemen in a suicide bombing on August 26 at the Kabul airport.
After McKenzie’s comments, Milley expressed regret.
“This is a horrible war tragedy and it is heartbreaking,” Milley told reporters traveling with him in Europe. “We are committed to being completely transparent about this incident.”
“In a dynamic, high-threat environment, commanders on the ground had the appropriate authority and had reasonable certainty that the target was valid, but after further analysis after the attack, our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed,” Milley added.
Family accounts, documents from colleagues seen by The Associated Press, and the scene at the family home, where Zemerai Ahmadi’s car was hit by a Hellfire missile just as he was parking in the driveway, painted the picture of a family that had worked. for Americans and were trying to obtain visas for the United States, fearing for their lives under the Taliban.
The family said that when the 37-year-old Zemerai, alone in his car, pulled into the house, he honked his horn. Her 11-year-old son ran out and Zemerai let the boy in and drive the car to the driveway. The other children ran out to watch, and the Hellfire missile incinerated the car, killing seven children and Zemerai’s adult son and nephew.
The airstrike was the last of a US war that ended as it had begun in 2001, with the Taliban in power in Kabul. The speed with which the Taliban invaded the country caught the US government by surprise, forcing it to send several thousand troops to the Kabul airport for a hasty evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others. The evacuation, which began on August 14, came under an almost constant threat of attack by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State group.