A U.S. drone attack that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, in the Afghan capital Kabul in August did not violate the laws of war, an internal Pentagon review found.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said said “execution errors,” including “confirmation bias” and “communication disruptions,” had contributed to the murderous attack.
But Said, who acts as the inspector general of the US Air Force, said it was not a violation of the law of war or negligence.
“It was an honest mistake,” Said said. “But this is not criminal conduct, haphazard conduct, negligence.”
The August 29 drone strike came amid the chaotic US military withdrawal from Kabul, and Said also pointed out that it took place as US forces faced threats from the Islamic State in the province. of Khorasan, ISKP (ISIS-K), a subsidiary of ISIS. (ISIL).
It came just days after a suicide bombing near Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) claimed by ISKP killed more than 150 Afghans as well as 13 US servicemen.
“The intended target of the strike – the vehicle, the white Corolla – its contents were truly assessed at the time as a threat to US forces” on the basis of an “intelligence interpretation” which turned out to be inaccurate , Said said.
The United States withdrew the last of its troops from Kabul at the end of August, ending a 20-year war that began after Al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York and Washington, DC.
The US military initially claimed that the Kabul drone attack killed ISIS-K fighters who were preparing to attack US troops at the airport.
But relatives of the victims said 10 Ahmadi and Nejrabi family members, aged two to 40, were killed. “They were innocent and helpless children,” Aimal Ahmadi, whose nieces and nephews were among those killed, told Al Jazeera after the attack.
Aimal’s brother, Zemari Ahmadi, was driving the car which was hit and also killed. Zemari worked for the US aid agency Nutrition and Education International (NEI).
The administration of US President Joe Biden later admitted that civilians had been killed and senior officials apologized – what family members of the victims said was not enough.
Last month, the United States also offered to compensate families.
Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union noted the Pentagon’s review findings fail to provide families and NEI with the “meaningful transparency and accountability for the wrongful murder of loved ones” that they demand.
“Family members and NEI employees who have been affected are at high risk because of the actions of the US government. They must be evacuated urgently to ensure their safety, ”the ACLU also said on Twitter.
To reconstruct the events of August 29, the Office of the Air Force Inspector General collected all information from the U.S. military on the attack, including text exchanges and communications, as well as testimony under oath of 22 soldiers directly involved, Said said.
“The disconnections were a whole process disruption that a lot of people were involved in,” Said said.
“You have to put yourself in the conditions that existed at the time and what I mean by that, the risk to the strength of HKIA and the multiple threats it was receiving from an imminent attack,” he said. declared. “It was unique in the sense that it was a self-defense strike.”
This strike killed aid worker Zemari Ahmadi and 9 members of his family, including 7 children.
NEI and surviving family members have repeatedly called for meaningful transparency and accountability for the wrongful murder of their loved ones.
They did not receive it today. https://t.co/ld68VDa3MY
– ACLU (@ACLU) November 3, 2021
The report itself is not being made public because it contains secret information about the methods and techniques used by the United States to carry out such drone strikes.
The report was delivered to the office of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin two days ago, Said said, adding that it is up to the military chain of command to determine whether “inferior action” by individuals should result in harm. “bad consequences”.
So far, no one in the US military has been held publicly responsible for the failures that led to the deadly attack.
In a statement released later Wednesday, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Standing Special Committee on Intelligence, said he was “not convinced” that the Pentagon review summary ” provides for real accountability “.
“From what the Intelligence Committee has learned from this strike and the events leading up to it, as well as from statements made in its immediate wake, I have serious concerns that are not being addressed by the has been put forward publicly, ”Schiff said.
“The committee has not yet received the classified report, which should be provided to Congress immediately, and I will withhold judgment until we are able to review this document. I anticipate that the Committee will have additional questions about this horrific tragedy, the intelligence that led to it, and how protocols and procedures in complex and high pressure environments will be improved. “