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The United States military says it made a “tragic” mistake in last month’s airstrike in Kabul.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, admitted to the error during a news conference Friday, just weeks after the U.S. launched a drone strike in the Afghanistan capital. Pentagon officials initially claimed the attack had targeted an Islamic State safehouse, where ISIS-K members were plotting an attack against American forces; however, upon further review, the military concluded that the victims of the strike were not extremists, but rather innocent civilians.
“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” McKenzie said from the Pentagon. “Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to US forces. 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.”
McKenzie went on to take full responsibility for the strike and its “tragic outcome.”
The Pentagon previously claimed at least one ISIS-K member was killed in the Aug. 29 attack, when the U.S. carried out a so-called “defensive airstrike” in a residential area of Kabul. Officials said the military had targeted a motorist who was suspected of being an ISIS-K suicide bomber. Subsequent news reports indicated the driver of the vehicle was Zemari Ahmadi—a longtime engineer for a U.S. aid company who had no ties to terrorist organizations.
As pointed out by The New York Times, U.S. officials acknowledged they did not confirm the driver’s identity before launching the drone strike. The military claims it became suspicious of Ahmadi based on his activities earlier that day. U.S. surveillance reportedly captured the man loading his truck with canisters that were believed to be explosive; however, a military official later told the Times “the suspicious packages were nothing more than water.”