US strike in Afghanistan that killed 10 was ‘honest mistake’, says IG
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has determined that its procedures failed to prevent the failed drone strike that killed 10 people in Kabul in August during the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
But the strike did not break any laws, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said, the inspector general of the service who led the Pentagon investigation. He described the tragedy as “an honest mistake”.
No one was responsible for the wrong decisions that led to the airstrike, Said said. His report, which is classified, has been passed on to commanders who have the power to discipline those involved, including firing some of them. Officials who authorized the strike, who were at a military base in Qatar, believed they “aimed at an imminent threat,” Said said.
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“The assessment which was based primarily on the interpretation of the information and the observed movement of the vehicle and occupants over an 8 hour period was unfortunately inaccurate,” according to a summary of the report. “In fact, the vehicle, its occupant, and its contents posed no risk to US forces.”
Ten people, including seven children, died in the attack by a Hellfire missile fired by a Reaper drone on August 29. The missile strike came days after terrorists from a self-proclaimed Islamic State affiliate called ISIS-K killed 13 US soldiers. and 170 Afghan civilians in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Military officials initially reported that the strike killed at least one suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber and no civilians. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the attack “fair.” But reports from the site by media, including the New York Times, showed civilians, not terrorists, had been killed.
The tragic mistake underscores the danger of the Pentagon’s approach to counterterrorism strikes when there are no US troops or close allies on the ground to identify legitimate targets. Military officials refer to long-range strikes as “beyond the horizon,” meaning the attacks are informed by spy planes, satellites and intercepted communications.
Said, however, said the botched strike was different from other attacks “on the horizon” because it was launched relatively quickly and in self-defense. Other counterterrorism strikes have much more time to examine the evidence before attacking, Said said.
Investigators interviewed 29 people, 22 of them directly involved in the strike, Said said.
The report recommends that those involved in target development and ordering of strikes implement procedures to mitigate confirmation bias, better share information, and assess civilian presence.
The Pentagon has explored ways to compensate family members of victims in Kabul.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed in US airstrikes in recent years from Africa to Afghanistan, Pentagon figures show. The Pentagon paid $ 259,899 in fiscal 2020 and $ 858,240 in 2019 to compensate the families of those killed, according to the Department of Defense.