A U.S. inspector general found no misconduct over the erroneous Kabul airstrike that killed civilians instead of an ISIS-K member.
On Aug. 29, during the final days of the chaotic Kabul evacuation, the U.S. launched a drone strike at a white car believed to have belonged to a potential ISIS-K bomber. The attack killed ten Afghan citizens, including seven children, but no terrorist member.
Leading an investigation into the event, Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said on Wednesday, Nov. 3, concluded it was a tragic mistake. Still, there was no legal breach during the intelligence process.
“That’s a mistake. It’s a regrettable mistake. It’s an honest mistake. I understand the consequences, but it’s not criminal conduct, random conduct, negligence,” Said told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
The inspector general attributed the mistake to the then tumultuous context that impaired better judgment.
The U.S. was working with multiple alerts of more terrorist attacks after the dual bombing at Kabul airport on Aug. 26 that killed 13 U.S. servicemen. It was also among the final days of the chaotic Afghan evacuation with escalated panic and confusion in the area.
Said also disclosed further details of the footage two minutes before the drone strike was ignited. Said noted signs of at least one child in the target, but it was not clear enough for the troops to notice.
“I’m just saying it is 100% not obvious. You have to be like, no kidding, looking for it,” Said added, noting that the personnel involved in the attack were edging on an “imminent threat,” NBC News reported.
Zemari Ahmadi, the victim, wrongfully perceived as a bomber by U.S. intelligence, was seen loading water cans into his car. However, his action was deemed to be working with explosives, per CBS News. His vehicle also contained a computer bag, commonly used to hold bombs, NBC News added.
Ahmadi was killed along with his other nine relatives. The U.S. had tried to make amends for the killings by helping his family out of Afghanistan and making reparation expenses.
Said’s report also recommended changes to prevent such fatal judgment from being committed again.
It suggested additional procedures to lower chances of confirmation bias, improve communication between the strike team and other teams, and measures to ensure assessment of harm to innocent people who may appear close to a target.