The US military has admitted that the drone strike that it carried out that they initially claimed killed a major ISIS operative in fact killed ten innocent civilians including seven children.
In a briefing on Friday, the commander of US Central Command, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, said he now believes it was unlikely that those who died were Islamic State militants or posed a direct threat to US forces at Kabul’s airport.
“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” McKenzie, wearing military uniform, told reporters. “Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with [Islamic State Khorasan] or were a direct threat to US forces.
For days after the 29 August strike by a single Hellfire missile, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, even though numerous civilians had been killed, including children. Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, had hailed it as a “righteous strike”.
This is just one more massacre of innocent Afghan civilians by the US using drone strikes during the 20-year invasion of that hapless country.
Tragic as it was, in a way, this was drearily predictable. The strike was ordered in the immediate aftermath of the suicide bombing near the Kabul airport on August 29 where crowds of people trying to flee before the US withdrawal had gathered. The suicide bombing killed scores of Afghans and 13 US soldiers. I doubt that there was much concern among US policymakers for the dead Afghans but the deaths of US soldiers placed an exclamation point on the entire debacle that was the US withdrawal.
The US does what it usually does when it gets attacked like this. It lashes out immediately. That not only satisfies the desire for revenge, it draws attention away from the deaths of the soldiers. The idea that the US military immediately knew the exact whereabouts of a key ISIS operative to hit strains credulity because they presumably could have targeted him at any time. It is more likely that they hurriedly chose a target and did not take the time examine it too carefully. The secondary explosion that occurred after the bombing was claimed to be due to munitions being carried by the militant, supporting the initial US claim that it was a valid target. We are now told that that was due to a propane tank that happened to be near the vehicle.
What likely caused the official story to unravel was that the driver of the hit vehicle, far from being an ISIS cadre, actually worked for an American humanitarian organization.
McKenzie ordered an investigation by Central Command. It found that the strike killed Zemari Ahmadi, a worker for Nutrition and Education International, a nongovernment organisation that distributes food to Afghan civilians, along with nine members of his family. His car was reportedly carrying water bottles rather than explosives.
The New York Times said Ahmadi’s “only connection to the terrorist group appeared to be a fleeting and innocuous interaction with people in what the military believed was an Isis safehouse in Kabul, an initial link that led military analysts to make one mistaken judgment after another while tracking Mr Ahmadi’s movements in a sedan for the next eight hours”.
If the dead people had been ordinary Afghans with no connections, the family would have suffered the same fate of the many other people who have been killed by US assaults, tarred as militants to justify their killing. This is just one more horrific killing of civilians, including children and old people, to add to all the others that the US has carried out, not only in Afghanistan, but in the many other countries that it is waging war in.
Human rights organisations welcomed the investigation as a move towards accountability but demanded further action.
Brian Castner, senior crisis adviser with Amnesty International’s crisis response programme, said: “The US must now commit to a full, transparent, and impartial investigation into this incident. Anyone suspected of criminal responsibility should be prosecuted in a fair trial. Survivors and families of the victims should be kept informed of the progress of the investigation and be given full reparation.
“It should be noted that the US military was only forced to admit to its failure in this strike because of the current global scrutiny on Afghanistan. Many similar strikes in Syria, Iraq, and Somalia have happened out of the spotlight, and the US continues to deny responsibility while devastated families suffer in silence.”
We are constantly told that US drones are very accurate and that the US is very careful to make sure they target only militants. That has been proven false time and time again.