Pentagon releases video of Kabul airstrike that killed ten civilians
Following a successful lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the New York Times, US Central Command released a video showing its botched airstrike in Kabul during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August.
The airstrike took place on August 29, 2021, three days after Islamic State (ISIS-K) ‘Khorasan Province’ militants launched a suicide bombing attack on the evacuation of US forces at the airport of Kabul, which resulted in the deaths of thirteen American soldiers and more than 150 Afghans. The retaliatory strike targeted other members of the terrorist group. Instead, he killed ten Afghan civilians, including seven children.
The footage, recorded by a pair of MQ-9 Reaper drones, provided additional information to the public about the moments before the strike. In the video, a car backs up to park in the courtyard of an apartment building in Kabul as several other unidentifiable figures walk nearby. After a person opens the car’s passenger door, they are hit by a missile, and surrounding figures can be seen running away from the explosion.
The US military initially claimed that the strike succeeded in eliminating several ISIS operatives who were planning a second attack on Kabul airport. However, reports circulated the following day that the strike had in fact killed Zemari Ahmadi, a local employee of a US-based non-governmental organization, and nine members of his family. Although additional information about Ahmadi and his family quickly circulated in Western media, the Pentagon did not admit its error until November. No American troops were ultimately sanctioned for the strike.
While US military officials later noted that a child had been seen in the area just two minutes before the strike, Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said said that it was “not 100% obvious” at the time.
“You have to look for it,” Said added, suggesting hindsight helped illuminate the hasty decision-making that led to the botched strike. The general described the attack as an “honest mistake” rather than intentional negligence.
The US government has offered a condolence payment to the Ahmadi family. He also indicated that he had carried out an investigation into how the strike could have taken place.
Trevor Filseth is a news and foreign affairs editor for the National interest.