WASHINGTON — The Pentagon acknowledged connected Friday that the past U.S. drone onslaught earlier American troops withdrew from Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including 7 children, aft initially saying it had been indispensable to forestall an onslaught connected troops.
The bonzer admittance provided a horrific punctuation to the chaotic ending of the 20-year warfare successful Afghanistan and volition enactment President Biden and the Pentagon astatine the halfway of a increasing fig of investigations into however the medication and the subject carried retired Mr. Biden’s bid to retreat from the country.
Almost everything elder defence officials asserted successful the hours, and past days, and past weeks aft the Aug. 29 drone onslaught turned retired to beryllium false. The explosives the subject claimed were loaded successful the trunk of a achromatic Toyota sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire rocket were astir apt h2o bottles, and a secondary detonation successful the courtyard successful a densely populated Kabul vicinity wherever the onslaught took spot was astir apt a propane oregon state tank, officials said.
In short, the car posed nary menace astatine all, investigators concluded.
The acknowledgment of the mistake came a week aft a New York Times probe of video evidence challenged assertions by the subject that it had struck a conveyance carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III ordered a reappraisal of the military’s enquiry into the drone onslaught to determine, among different issues, who should beryllium held accountable and “the grade to which onslaught authorities, procedures and processes request to beryllium altered successful the future.”
Congressional lawmakers, meanwhile, said they wanted their ain accounting from the Pentagon.
Senior Defense Department leaders conceded that the operator of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime idiosyncratic for a U.S. assistance group, had thing to bash with the Islamic State, contrary to what subject officials had antecedently asserted. Mr. Ahmadi’s lone transportation to the violent radical appeared to beryllium a fleeting and innocuous enactment with radical successful what the subject believed was an ISIS harmless location successful Kabul, an archetypal nexus that led subject analysts to marque 1 mistaken judgement aft different portion tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements successful the sedan for the adjacent 8 hours.
“I connection my profound condolences to the household and friends of those who were killed,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the caput of U.S. Central Command, told reporters astatine a Pentagon quality league connected Friday.
The wide said the onslaught was carried retired “in the profound belief” that ISIS was astir to onslaught Kabul’s airport, arsenic the enactment had done 3 days earlier, sidesplitting much than 140 people, including 13 American work members.
The wide said the Times probe helped investigators find that they had struck a incorrect target. “As we successful information worked connected our investigation, we utilized each disposable information,” General McKenzie told reporters. “Certainly that included immoderate of the worldly The New York Times did.”
The findings of the enquiry by the military’s Central Command mirrored the Times investigation, which besides included interviews with much than a twelve of the driver’s co-workers and household members successful Kabul. The Times enquiry raised doubts astir the U.S. mentation of events, including whether explosives were contiguous successful the vehicle. It besides identified the operator and obtained information camera footage from Mr. Ahmadi’s employers that documented important moments during his time that challenged the military’s account.
Mr. Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said the rocket was launched due to the fact that the subject had quality suggesting a credible, imminent menace to the airport, wherever U.S. and allied troops were frantically trying to evacuate people. General Milley aboriginal called the onslaught “righteous.”
On Friday, General Milley suggested that helium spoke excessively soon.
“In a dynamic high-threat environment, the commanders connected the crushed had due authorization and had tenable certainty that the people was valid, but aft deeper post-strike analysis, our decision is that guiltless civilians were killed,” General Milley said successful a statement. “This is simply a horrible calamity of warfare and it’s heart-wrenching and we are committed to being afloat transparent astir this incident.”
General McKenzie said the conditions connected the crushed earlier the onslaught contributed to the errant strike. “We did not person the luxury to make signifier of life,” helium said.
The Pentagon volition enactment with the families and different authorities officials connected reparation payments, General McKenzie said. Without immoderate American troops successful Afghanistan, helium said that the task whitethorn beryllium difficult, but that “we admit the obligation.”
Military officials said they did not cognize the individuality of the car’s operator erstwhile the drone fired, but they had deemed him suspicious due to the fact that of his activities that day: He had visited a suspected Islamic State harmless location successful a achromatic Toyota Corolla, the aforesaid exemplary that different quality that time indicated was progressive successful an imminent plot, and astatine 1 constituent helium loaded the conveyance with what they thought could beryllium explosives.
Military officials connected Friday defended their appraisal that the harmless location was a hub of ISIS planning, based connected a operation of intercepted communications, accusation from informants and aerial imagery. Rockets were fired astatine the airdrome 24 hours aft the U.S. drone strike, General McKenzie said.
But aft reviewing further aerial video and photographs, subject investigators concluded that their archetypal judgement astir the operator and his car were wrong, an mistake that prejudiced their views of each consequent halt helium made that time portion driving astir Kabul.
Times reporting had identified the operator arsenic Mr. Ahmadi. The grounds suggests that his travels that time really progressive transporting colleagues to and from work. And an investigation of video feeds showed that what the subject whitethorn person seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a workfellow loading canisters of h2o into his trunk to bring location to his family.
“We present cognize that determination was nary transportation betwixt Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities connected that time were wholly harmless and not astatine each related to the imminent menace we believed we faced, and that Mr. Ahmadi was conscionable arsenic guiltless a unfortunate arsenic were the others tragically killed,” Mr. Austin said successful a statement, referring to an affiliate of the Islamic State.
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The officials said connected Friday that a consequent reappraisal concluded, arsenic did the Times investigation, that the suspicious packages were thing much than water, and perchance a bundle the size of a laptop computer.
Senior Pentagon leaders, who were already preparing to little lawmakers connected the chaotic extremity to the warfare successful Afghanistan, volition astir apt look pugnacious questioning connected the past drone onslaught of that engagement.
“I’m devastated by the acknowledgment from the Department of Defense that the onslaught conducted connected Aug. 29 was an utter nonaccomplishment that resulted successful the deaths of astatine slightest 10 civilians,” Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, said successful a statement. “I expect the section to little america instantly connected the operation, focusing connected a afloat accounting of the targeting processes and procedures which led to the determination to transportation retired specified a strike.”
Civilian deaths from drone strikes person been a recurring occupation successful much than 2 decades of warring successful places similar Afghanistan and Iraq and are improbable to spell distant arsenic the Biden medication moves toward what officials telephone “over the horizon” operations successful Afghanistan — strikes launched against violent targets successful the state from large distances away.
Since the Aug. 29 strike, U.S. subject officials justified their actions by citing an adjacent larger blast that took spot afterward successful the courtyard wherever Mr. Ahmadi, who worked arsenic an electrical technologist for Nutrition and Education International, a California-based assistance group, made his last stop.
But an introspection of the country of the strike, conducted by the Times ocular investigations squad and a Times newsman the greeting afterward, and followed up with a 2nd sojourn 4 days later, recovered nary grounds of a second, much almighty explosion.
Experts who examined photos and videos pointed retired that, though determination was wide grounds of a rocket onslaught and a consequent conveyance fire, determination were nary collapsed oregon blown-out walls, nary destroyed vegetation, and lone 1 dent successful the entranceway gate, indicating a azygous daze wave.
Military officials said investigators present believed the 2nd detonation was a flare-up from a propane vessel successful the courtyard, oregon perchance the state vessel of a 2nd conveyance successful the courtyard.
While the U.S. subject initially said the drone onslaught mightiness person killed 3 civilians, officials present accidental that 10 people, including 7 children, were killed. The subject reached that decision aft watching aerial imagery that shows 3 children coming retired to greet the sedan, 1 of them taking the instrumentality of the car aft Mr. Ahmadi got out.
When Mr. Ahmadi pulled into the courtyard of his home, the tactical commandant made the determination to onslaught his vehicle, launching a azygous Hellfire rocket astatine 4:53 p.m.
Military officials defended the procedures the drone onslaught commandant made successful deciding to transportation retired the strike, with “reasonable certainty” determination would beryllium nary civilian casualties, adjacent arsenic they described the severely flawed concatenation of events that led to that decision.
The commandant overseeing the drone strike, an experienced relation whom the Pentagon did not identify, faced a hard determination successful his mind: Take the changeable portion the sedan was parked successful a comparatively isolated courtyard, oregon hold until the sedan drove adjacent person to the airdrome — and denser crowds — expanding the hazard to civilians.
In the end, however, officials said connected Friday, tragically, it was the incorrect call.