CIA Reportedly Warned US Military of Likely Presence of Children Near Afghan Drone Strike Target
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, admitted Friday that no Daesh-Khorasan* fighters were killed in the August 29th airstrike in Kabul that left ten civilians dead, taking full responsibility for the "tragic outcome" of the attack.
As the US military launched a drone strike
on August 29th to stop a vehicle believed to be carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport, where US troops were leading the evacuation effort, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) issued an urgent alert that civilians were likely in the area, according to three sources cited by CNN.
The warning that there were possibly children in the vicinity of the targeted white Toyota sedan had come seconds before the missile hit the car. Ten civilians, including seven children, the youngest of whom was 2 years old, died in the strike as the car was pulling into the family's driveway.
Neither the CIA nor US Central Command have yet responded to this report.
The airstrikes had been ordered
by the US military in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks by Daesh-Khorasan* that targeted crowds of civilians as well as US and Taliban* soldiers outside Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 26. The bombings left nearly 200 people dead and thousands injured.
While the airstrike carried out on August 28 in Nangarhar Province purportedly wiped out two Daesh commanders responsible for orchestrating the attacks, the legitimacy
of the second strike had been questioned for weeks in the media.
The military had justified the strike as targeting a confirmed terrorist target, albeit with the acknowledgement that some civilians might have been killed. Intelligence officials are said to have tracked for several hours the movements of the vehicle driver, Zemari Ahmadi, an employee of the US non-governmental organization (NGO) Nutrition and Education International.
They were ostensibly acting on the information that Ahmadi had a brief interaction with people in what the military believed was a Daesh safe house. The military commanders observed the man load what they thought were explosives but turned out to be water jugs into the back of the car to bring home.
The Pentagon also stated there had been a large secondary explosion, most likely caused by explosives in the trunk of the car, with the latter credited for the civilian casualties. However, this blast was more likely a propane tank located behind the parked car that had ignited after the drone strike, writes the outlet.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley similarly defended the strike as "righteous." US Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command (USCENTCOM), said the decision to strike the vehicle was made in an "earnest belief", based on a standard of "reasonable certainty", that it posed an imminent threat to American forces at the Kabul airport.
However, on Friday, following a New York Times investigation
, the Pentagon acknowledged that the US drone strike in Kabul on August 29 was a “tragic mistake” that killed 10 civilians, including an aid worker and seven children. There had been no one in the car affiliated with Daesh-Khorasan*, as originally believed, stated
Gen. Frank McKenzie.
"Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K [Daesh] or were a direct threat to US forces. I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed ... It was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology," said the general.
Questions have been raised regarding whether the military had informed the intelligence community of its decision to deliver the drone strike, as lawmakers have vowed
to probe what mistakes were made in the lead up to the strike on August 29.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has asked for a "thorough review" of the drone strike probe by US Central Command "to consider the degree to which the investigation considered all available context and information, the degree to which accountability measures need be taken and at what level, and the degree to which strike authorities, procedures, and processes need to be altered in the future."
“We apologize, and we will endeavor to learn from this horrible mistake,” Austin said in a statement.
*Taliban and Daesh-K are terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.