U.S. says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians, including children, in ‘tragic mistake’ By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, arrives at Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on this picture taken on August 17, 2021 and launched by U.S. Navy on August 18, 2021. U.S NAVY/C


By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A drone strike in Kabul final month killed as many as 10 civilians, together with seven kids, the U.S. navy stated on Friday, apologizing for what it known as a “tragic mistake”.

The Pentagon had stated the Aug. 29 strike focused an Islamic State suicide bomber who posed an imminent menace to U.S.-led troops on the airport as they accomplished the final phases of their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At the same time as studies of civilian casualties emerged, the highest U.S. normal had described the assault as “righteous”.

The pinnacle of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Basic Frank McKenzie, stated that on the time he had been assured it averted an imminent menace to the forces on the airport.

“Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake,” McKenzie instructed reporters.

He stated he now believed it unlikely that these killed had been members of the native Islamic State affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan, or posed a menace to U.S. troops. The Pentagon was contemplating reparations, McKenzie stated.

The killing of civilians, in a strike carried out by a drone based mostly exterior Afghanistan, has raised questions on the way forward for U.S. counter-terrorism strikes within the nation, the place intelligence gathering has been all however choked off since final month’s withdrawal.

And the affirmation of civilian deaths offers additional gas to critics of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal and evacuation of Afghan allies, which has generated the largest disaster but for the Biden administration.

In an announcement, Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin stated the drone strike had killed a Mr. Ahmadi who labored for a non-profit known as Vitamin and Training Worldwide.

“We now know that there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his actions on that day had been fully innocent and in no way associated to the approaching menace we believed we confronted,” Austin stated within the assertion.

“We apologize, and we are going to endeavor to be taught from this horrible mistake.”

Whereas it’s uncommon for senior Pentagon officers, together with the protection secretary, to apologize personally for civilians killed in navy strikes, the U.S. navy does publish studies on civilians killed in operations around the globe.

Experiences had emerged virtually instantly that the drone strike in a neighborhood west of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport had killed civilians together with kids. Video from the scene confirmed the wreckage of a automotive strewn across the courtyard of a constructing. A spokesman for Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated on the time that the assault killed seven folks, and that the Taliban was investigating.

The strike got here three days after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghan civilians who had crowded exterior the airport gates, determined to safe seats on evacuation flights, after U.S.-trained Afghan forces melted away and the Taliban swept to energy within the capital.

Following the suicide bombing on the airport, the U.S. navy launched a drone strike in japanese Afghanistan that it stated killed two Islamic State militants. That strike isn’t beneath evaluate.

The second, mistaken strike got here because the U.S. navy was on heightened alert, with officers warning they anticipated extra assaults on the airport, together with from rockets and vehicle-borne explosive units, because the Pentagon wrapped up its mission.

Basic Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, appeared responsible the fog of conflict, at the same time as he acknowledged in an announcement that the civilian deaths had been “coronary heart wrenching”.

“In a dynamic excessive menace surroundings, the commanders on the bottom had the suitable authority and had affordable certainty that the goal was legitimate,” Milley stated.

The authority to hold out strikes in Afghanistan — towards al Qaeda or Islamic State — won’t relaxation any extra with U.S. commanders within the area, a U.S. protection official instructed Reuters, including Austin himself must authorize any future strikes.

Nonetheless, the intelligence failure uncovered in America’s final navy strike of its conflict in Afghanistan raises exhausting questions in regards to the dangers going ahead. These embody whether or not america can hold observe of al Qaeda and Islamic State threats, and act rapidly on any info it will get.

McKenzie performed down the affect the newest civilian casualties would have on future actions in Afghanistan.

“I do not assume you need to draw any conclusions about our capability to strike in Afghanistan towards ISIS-Okay targets sooner or later based mostly on this specific strike,” he stated.

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