Afghanistan crisis International

U.S. admits Kabul drone strike killed civilians

Gen. Frank McKenzie, Commander of U.S. Central Command, appearing on screen from MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida., speaks about Afghanistan during a virtual briefing at the Pentagon in Washington. File photo   | Photo Credit: AP

The U.S. Military has admitted that it killed up to 10 civilians, including seven children, in an August 29 drone strike in Kabul, whose target, Zemari Ahmadi, was initially mistaken for a member of the ISIS-K (Islamic State, Khorasan) terror group. The U.S. had targeted the group believing it was going to carry out strikes on Kabul airport, days after the group had claimed responsibility for an attack, killing 182 evacuees and U.S troops at the airport.

“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians including up to seven children we tragically killed in that strike,” Commander of U.S. Central Command, Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., told reporters via video-link at a Pentagon press conference on Friday.

“Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to U.S. forces,” he said offering his “profound condolences” to the family and friends of those killed.

Tragic outcome

“But it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology. As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and its tragic outcome,” Mr McKenzie said. The U.S. is considering making reparations to the victims’ family, he said.

Following the drone operation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley had described the attack as a “righteous strike,” comments be walked back on Friday, calling the incident “heart wrenching” and committing to being fully transparent about the event.

Several American media organisations had questioned the Pentagon’s position soon after the attack. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked about it on Tuesday at a Senate committee hearing on Afghanistan and had said he did not know if Ahmadi was a ISIS-K operative or an aid worker and that the administration was reviewing it. “Well, see, you’d think you’d kinda know before you off somebody with a Predator drone…” Senator Rand Paul told Mr. Blinken during that hearing .

Ahmadi, who was about 37-40 years old and worked for an American NGO, Nutrition and Education International, was killed by a hellfire missile shortly after he pulled into his driveway. Ahmadi had moved to the passenger seat of the his white Toyota Corolla, allowing his 11-year-old son to drive the car fully in, an event other children in the house had come racing out to see, as per reports. The missile killed him, seven children and his adult son and nephew, according to the Associated Press. The nephew, Ahmad Naser Haideri, had received a medal for his service with special American forces and had, along with his uncle and others, applied for special visas to the U.S.

A secondary explosion caused after the attack was, as per Gen. McKenzie, a propane tank behind the car and not, as per the initial conclusion, from explosives stored in the boot of Ahmadi’s car.

“That is not enough for us to say sorry,” Zemari’s brother Emal Ahmadi reportedly said. “The U.S.A. should find the person who did this.” Mr. Emal’s three-year-old daughter, Malika, was among those killed in the strike. Mr. Emal is seeking financial compensation for the family and relocation to a third country, as per reports.


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 3:00:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/kabul-drone-strike-was-a-mistake-admits-top-us-military-commander/article36529673.ece

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