On Friday (September 17), the Head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. admitted that the drone strike that was conducted to avenge the killing of 13 US soldiers by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP or ISIS-K) resulted in the death of 10 civilians. The development comes days after the New York Times published a detailed report highlighting how a 43-year-old aid worker Zemari Ahmadi and 9 of his family members (including 7 children) were killed in the strike of August 29.
In a video message, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie conceded, “Having thoroughly reviewed the findings of the investigation and the supporting analysis by interagency partners, I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians including up to 10 children were tragically killed in that strike. Moreover, 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.”
BREAKING: CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie admits Aug. 29th Kabul drone strike believed to be targeting ISIS-K extremists “was a mistake,” killing “as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children.” https://t.co/jnI1Ll47SN pic.twitter.com/RSP15lWOJJ— ABC News (@ABC) September 17, 2021
He further added, “I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed. 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. As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for the strike and its tragic outcome.”
The Background of the incident and the initial cover up by Pentagon
The ability of the United States, to carry out counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan from afar, came under the scanner following the bombing inside the Hamid Karzai international airport in Afghan’s capital Kabul on August 26. The deadly attack claimed more than 100 lives, including that of 13 US soldiers. Islamic State’s regional affiliate Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) had taken the responsibility for the attack and the suicide bomber was identified as one Abdul Rehman Al-Loghri. The terror attack also temporarily disrupted the evacuation of tens and thousands of stranded civilians.
On August 29, the US Army conducted a drone strike to avenge the suicide bombing attack at the Kabul airport by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). It had claimed to target a vehicle within a residential area, supposedly carrying ‘multiple’ ISKP suicide bombers. However, an exclusive investigation by the New York Times (NYT) had revealed that the drone attack killed a 43-year-old aid worker named Zemari Ahmadi and 9 of his family members (including 7 children) instead of ISKP terrorists. At that time, he was driving his 1996 Toyota Corolla car carrying water jugs, which the Pentagon apparently mistook for explosives.
Initially, the Pentagon justified the attack claiming it to be based on an intelligence assessment. According to Pentagon officials, a second blast took place after the drone strike. They alleged that it was caused due to explosives in the car of Ahmadi. New York Times analysed the pictures from the scene and found no evidence of a second bomb blast. Had there been a second explosion, experts told NYT that the walls would have collapsed. However, there was only one minor dent on the security gate, implying only one shock wave.