Pentagon officials announced last month’s drone strike killed civilians and not terrorists as once thought.
“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” said Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie head of U.S. Central Command during a Pentagon briefing. “Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or a direct threat to U.S. forces.”
According to McKenzie, U.S. officials had been tracking a white Toyota Corolla sedan for hours on Aug. 29. It was believed to have contained explosives.
McKenzie described the decision to strike the car was made with “reasonable certainty” that it posed a threat to American forces at the Kabul airport.
Two days after the drone strike, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at least one of the people killed was a “facilitator” for the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate. Pentagon officials said the attack was done correctly, despite the civilian casualties.
“No military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than the United States military, and nobody wants to see innocent life taken,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on Aug. 30. “We take it very, very seriously.”
Upon learning the drone strike failed, multiple top officials expressed regret Friday.
“The strike was a tragic mistake,” McKenzie said at the briefing. He said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims.
“This is a horrible tragedy of war, and it’s heart wrenching,” Gen. Milley told reporters traveling with him in Europe. “We are committed to being fully transparent about this incident.”
In a written statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called the drone strike “a horrible mistake”, describing the target of the strike as “completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced”.