After what officials initially deemed a “righteous strike,” a military investigation has concluded that an unmanned airstrike targeting a terrorist leader behind last month’s deadly attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport killed as many as ten civilians.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie solemnly announced his findings, “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.”
The August 29 airstrike came three days after the Kabul airport attack, a suicide bombing perpetrated by ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which killed at least 182 people, including 13 U.S. service members. At the time, a spokesman from U.S. Central Command said the over-the-horizon operation eliminated “an imminent ISIS-K threat” and that “significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.”
Per Business Insider:
But in a subsequent statement also released on the day of the strike, CENTCOM said it was “aware of reports of civilian casualties,” adding that it would be “deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”
Last week, the New York Times released a report that undermined the U.S. military’s initial claims that the strike hit a vehicle packed with explosives. The Times obtained video footage that showed the aid worker who was killed, Zemari Ahmadi, filling his car with water containers for his home.
Up to nine members of Ahmadi’s family may have been killed—including seven children.
The August 29 drone strike has garnered considerable public attention since the US pulled the last of its troops out of Afghanistan. Citing the Times’ report during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing earlier this week, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken over the strike.
In a Friday statement on the strike, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin apologized to the family members of the victims.
Austin also announced a review of Central Command’s (CENTCOM) investigation.