Pentagon admits 'tragic mistake' in strike that killed 10 civilians

The Pentagon on Friday confirmed it mistook a civilian vehicle for an ISIS-K threat when it launched a drone strike on Aug. 29 in Kabul that killed 10 civilians.

“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” U.S. Central Command head Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon. “Moreover, we analyzed that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to U.S. forces.”

"Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake," he said.

McKenzie also offered his "profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed."

"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. As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for the strike and this tragic outcome," he said.

Pentagon officials had previously asserted that at least one ISIS-K member and three civilians were killed when the U.S. military struck a vehicle it said was “an imminent ISIS-K threat” to U.S. forces evacuating people at Kabul’s airport.

Shortly thereafter, reports emerged that the U.S. military targeted the driver of the vehicle, Zemari Ahmadi, based on dubious claims, including because they believed he may have had ties to ISIS and that explosives had been put in his vehicle.

But the driver did not have ties to the terrorist organization and instead was a worker at an aid group, Nutrition and Education International, the investigation found.

Following McKenzie’s comments, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin offered his own condolences “to surviving family members of those who were killed, including Mr. Ahmadi, and to the staff of Nutrition and Education International, Mr. Ahmadi’s employer.”

Austin, who said McKenzie briefed him on the investigation’s findings earlier Friday, said the Defense Department now knows “there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities on that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced, and that Mr. Ahmadi was just as innocent a victim as were the others tragically killed.”

“We apologize, and we will endeavor to learn from this horrible mistake,” Austin said in a statement.

The Pentagon chief also said he had directed a review of the Centcom investigation to see whether it 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 will scrutinize not only what we decided to do — and not do — on the 29th of August, but also how we investigated those outcomes,” Austin said. “We owe that to the victims and their loved ones, to the American people and to ourselves.”

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