Top General of United States Central Command, at the Pentagon, Gen. Frank McKenzie has disclosed that the U.S military probe into the drone strike in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, targeted the wrong individuals.
Gatekeepers News reports that in August, the U.S had retaliated to the Kabul airport attack, and launched a drone strike on a vehicle that it said was conveying the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) fighter and who it believed was planning future attacks and another associate.
However, on Friday, the U.S military admitted that the vehicle targeted was likely not a threat associated with ISIS-K.
McKenzie also admitted that the strike killed 10 civilians including seven children.
“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,” he said.
McKenzie added that he is “fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.”
According to reports, drone operators monitored the courtyard for up to 4 to 5 minutes before the strike and found a male driver left the vehicle while one child was parking the vehicle and as other children were present in the car and the courtyard.
“We didn’t take the strike because we thought we were wrong — we took the strike because we thought we had a good target,” McKenzie said. While he acknowledged that the strike “was a terrible mistake,” he said he would “not qualify the entire operation” as a failure.
When a reporter asked him to explain how the “complete and utter failure” could have occurred, McKenzie said, “While I agree that this strike certainly did not come up to our standards and I profoundly regret it, I would not qualify the entire operation in those terms.”
Gatekeepers News reports that President Joe Biden who had hailed the strike as an example of the US ability to target ISIS-K, has been briefed on Friday about the investigation’s findings. The White House is however yet to comment on the airstrike findings.
Meanwhile, Mark Milley, U.S Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has released a statement on the strike describing it as “a horrible tragedy.”
“In a dynamic high-threat environment, the commanders on the ground had appropriate authority and had reasonable certainty that the target was valid, but after deeper post-strike analysis, our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed,” Milley said in a statement on Friday.
“This is a horrible tragedy of war and its [sic] heart wrenching and we are committed to being fully transparent about this incident,” he added.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has also apologised for the strike in a statement on Friday, and offered condolences to the family of Zamarai Ahmadi, the driver of the car targeted in the strike.
“We now know that there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities on that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced, and that Mr. Ahmadi was just as innocent a victim as were the others tragically killed,” he said.
Austin said he directed a “thorough review” of the investigation conducted by Central Command and the information that led the US military to conduct it.
He said the military, when it has reason to believe it has taken an innocent life, “investigate it and, if true, we admit it.”
“But we also must work just as hard to prevent recurrence — no matter the circumstances, the intelligence stream or the operational pressures under which we labour,” he added. “We will do that in this case.”
House Intelligence Chairman, Adam Schiff in a statement on Friday, said that “after such a devastating failure – one that, by the Department’s estimate, killed 10 civilians, at least 7 of them children – it cannot be the last step.”
“We need to know what went wrong in the hours and minutes leading up to the strike to prevent similar tragedies in the future,” the California Democrat said, adding that his committee “will continue to press for answers.”