In a shocking admission Friday, the Pentagon confirmed that a drone strike in Afghanistan, meant to target members of ISIS-K who planned a deadly attack on the United States military in the waning days of the Afghanistan War, killed 10 civilians in a “tragic mistake.”
“The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan on Aug. 29 that officials said was necessary to prevent an attack on American troops was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, an American military official familiar with the investigation,” told The New York Times.
“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,” head of the United States Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, added in a video statement during a Pentagon briefing Friday afternoon, calling the incident a “tragic mistake.”
The investigation was reportedly conducted by U.S. Central Command, which released its findings Friday. The conclusions match an earlier New York Times report indicating that the drone strike had killed civilians, not members of ISIS-K.
The Pentagon denied the earlier reports insisting, as recently as Monday, that the strike was launched pursuant to credible intelligence. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called the strike “righteous,” according to an earlier New York Times report.
The explosives the U.S. military targeted were, instead, “most likely water bottles” and the “white Toyota sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire missile” actually “posed no threat at all.”
According to earlier reports, the driver of the vehicle was an aid worker who had applied for a special immigrant visa, allowing him to leave alongside American and coalition forces ahead of the U.S. withdrawal.
The Pentagon appeared to confirm those details in speaking to the New York Times.
The official also acknowledged that the driver of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group, had nothing to do with ISIS, as military officials had previously asserted. Mr. Ahmadi’s only connection to the terrorist group appeared to be a fleeting and innocuous interaction with people in what the military believed was an ISIS safehouse in Kabul, an initial link that led military analysts to make one mistaken judgment after another while tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements in a sedan for the next eight hours.
“Mr. Ahmadi, 43, worked as an electrical engineer for Nutrition and Education International, a California-based aid group. The morning of the strike, his boss called from the office around 8:45 a.m. and asked him to pick up his laptop,” the Times noted in an earlier report. Ahmadi left for work around 9:00 a.m., at which point he came under American surveillance.
The Pentagon appears to have taken full responsibility for the strike.
“It was a mistake,” the official told the New York Times Friday.
ISIS-K remains a concern in the region, as does the Taliban, which is now reportedly hunting down Afghans who collaborated with coalition forces and meting out severe punishments. French officials said on Wednesday that they struck their own blow against ISIS-K, killing the “leader of the West African ISIS affiliate in a drone strike in southern Mali,” per National Public Radio.
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Author: Emily Zanotti