UNITED STATES — The U.S. military said Friday that it mistakenly killed at least 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children but not an Islamic State terrorist, as intended when it launched a drone strike on a car in Kabul last month.
It was a reversal of the Pentagon’s position on the Aug. 29 strike from just days ago, when military officials said they believed that the strike was justified. Military officials said then that civilians may have been mistakenly killed, but that Islamic State militants had been stopped. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley had gone so far as to say earlier this month that the strike was “righteous.”
This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology,” Mckenzie said.
McKenzie added that he is “fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.”
The Pentagon had maintained that at least one ISIS-K facilitator and three civilians were killed in what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley had previously called a “righteous strike” on the compound on August 29. The investigation released Friday found that all of those killed in the residential compound were civilians.
In the lead up to the strike, drone operators surveilled the courtyard for up to 4 to 5 minutes. In that time, a male driver left the vehicle. One child was parking the vehicle and other children were present in the car and the courtyard — as CNN had been told by the Ahmadi family.
The military based the strike on a reasonable certainty standard to launch the strike on the vehicle. Tragically, it was the wrong vehicle, the official said, adding that no reasonable certainty is not 100% certainty.
Previously, US Central Command pointed to “significant secondary explosions” as evidence of a “substantial amount of explosive material” in the vehicle. On Friday, the US military source said that after reviewing footage from infra-red sensors, they would no longer characterize this as an explosion — instead, it was more of a flare up.
The US official said that in the time leading up to the strike, the US had at least 60 different intelligence reports about threat streams toward US forces at Hamid Karzai International Airport.