Investigation of drone strikes in Kabul could lead to disciplinary action

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U.S. military personnel could face disciplinary action following a drone attack in Kabul last week that killed ten civilians, including seven children, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Zamairi Ahmadi, an employee of an American humanitarian organization, was killed along with several other employees of international groups and their children.

We now know that there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities that day were completely harmless

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

All the victims had applied to be flown out of the country at Kabul airport, just three kilometers from the site of the airstrike.

At the time, an international evacuation operation flown more than 70,000 Afghan allies and foreign nationals out of the country.

President Joe Biden said he would support a full investigation into the strike after being given the details.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said any move to punish those responsible will come after a US Air Force review of the initial assessment carried out by Centcom, the headquarters of the US Forces in the Middle East.

“When accountable, decisions about who and what would be done would be a separate consideration,” he told reporters.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed the further course of the investigation with possible disciplinary measures on Friday.

Gen Austin had previously ordered an investigation into the August 29 attack, in which the Pentagon originally destroyed a car bomb used by ISIS Khorasan fighters, terrorists of the Afghan branch of ISIS.

The US military tried to respond to intelligence that IS-K was planning another attack in Kabul aimed at international evacuation efforts.

On August 26, an ISIS car bomb hit the crowds at the gates of Kabul Airport, over 170 Afghan civilians and at least 13 US soldiers.

“We are confident that we have successfully hit the target,” said Capt Bill Urban of US Central Command after the drone attack.

“Secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a significant amount of explosive material.”

But in the hours after the bombing, reports surfaced that civilians had been killed. The Pentagon admitted on Sunday that it was a “tragic mistake”.

The US Air Force alleged that drone operators mistook water containers loaded on the back of a Toyota Corolla for barrels filled with explosives.

According to the Air Force report, the civilian car, tracked for eight hours, was parked near a house believed to be an ISIS-K agent.

What the US initially referred to as “secondary explosions” – alleged evidence of a car bomb – turned out to be an exploding propane tank that was stored on the target site.

“We now know that there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities that day were completely harmless and had nothing to do with the immediate threat we faced,” said General Austin.

“We apologize and will do our best to learn from this terrible mistake.”

Mr Biden’s support for the investigation could mark a departure from the Trump administration’s heavy reliance on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to combat terrorists.

However, Mr Biden is unlikely to deviate significantly from the controversial counter-terrorism tactics.

The Trump administration carried out 2,243 drone strikes in the first two years of Mr Trump’s tenure, compared to 1,878 during Barack Obama’s tenure when Mr Biden was vice president, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based Panzer company.

Updated: September 21, 2021, 7:52 am


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