2 Minutes Before Deadly Airstrike, a Child Could Be Seen

But watchdog finds no evidence of illegal action on part of US
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 4, 2021 12:23 AM CDT
2 Minutes Before Deadly Airstrike, a Child Could Be Seen
Afghans inspect damage of Ahmadi family house after U.S. drone strike on Aug. 29, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi, File)

An independent Pentagon review has concluded that the US drone strike that killed 10 innocent Kabul civilians, seven of them children, in the final days of the Afghanistan war was not caused by misconduct or negligence, and it doesn't recommend any disciplinary action, the AP reports. The review, done by Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said, found there were breakdowns in communication and in the process of identifying and confirming the target of the bombing. Said concluded that the mistaken strike happened despite prudent measures to prevent civilian deaths. “I found that given the information they had and the analysis that they did—I understand they reached the wrong conclusion, but ... was it reasonable to conclude what they concluded based on what they had? It was not unreasonable. It just turned out to be incorrect,” Said said.

He is the inspector general of the Air Force and is considered independent as he had no direct connection to Afghanistan operations. His review said the drone strike must be considered in the context of the moment, as US forces under stress were being flooded by information about threats to troops and civilians at the Kabul airport, just days after a deadly suicide bombing. The US was working to evacuate thousands of Americans, Afghans and other allies in the wake of the collapse of the country's government and the Taliban's takeover. Said concluded that US forces genuinely believed that the car they were following was an imminent threat and that they needed to strike it before it got closer to the airport, and that better communication might have raised more doubts about the bombing, but in the end may not have prevented it.

“They all have a genuine belief based on the information they had and the interpretation, that that was a threat to US forces, an imminent threat to US forces,” he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing. “That’s a mistake. It’s a regrettable mistake. It’s an honest mistake. I understand the consequences, but it’s not criminal conduct, random conduct, negligence.” He said repeated reviews of the video from that day showed that two minutes before the strike was launched, there was evidence that a child was in the strike zone, but troops in the strike cell did not see the child. “I’m just saying it is 100% not obvious," he said. "You have to be like, no kidding, looking for it. But when you’re looking for it, certainly after the fact, if you ask me, was there evidence of the presence? Yes, there was.” (Much more on his recommendations here.)

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