Watchdog finds no misconduct in mistaken Afghan airstrike


WASHINGTON (AP) – An independent Pentagon study has concluded that the US drone strike that killed innocent civilians and children in Kabul in the final days of the war in Afghanistan was not due to fault or neglect , and she does not recommend disciplinary action, The Associated Press has learned.

The review, carried out by Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said, found that there had been breakdowns in communication and in the process of identifying and confirming the target of the attack. , according to a senior defense official familiar with the report. But, Said concluded that the strike in error had occurred despite careful measures to prevent the deaths of civilians, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss a report that has yet to be released. published.

As Inspector General of the Air Force, Said had no direct connection with operations in Afghanistan and was therefore considered an independent judge in the matter.

Said’s review said the drone strike should be seen in the context of the moment, as US forces under pressure were inundated with information about threats to troops and civilians at Kabul airport, a few just days after a suicide bombing. Thousands of Afghans were invading the airport, trying to get out of the country after the Taliban took control.

According to the official, Said found that better communication between those who made the decision to strike and other support staff could have raised more doubts about the bombing, but ultimately did not. might not have prevented.

Said was tasked with investigating the August 29 drone strike on a white Toyota Corolla sedan, which killed Zemerai Ahmadi and nine members of his family, including seven children. Ahmadi, 37, was a long-time employee of a US aid organization.

Intelligence about the car and its potential threat came just days after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 US soldiers and 169 Afghans at the gate of Kabul airport. The United States was struggling to evacuate thousands of Americans, Afghans and other allies following the collapse of the country’s government.

Said concluded that US forces sincerely believed that the car they were following was an imminent threat and that they had to hit it before it approached the airport.

The report, which was approved by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, made several recommendations that were passed on to commanders of US Central Command and US Special Operations Command. The official said the review recommends that more be done to prevent what military officials call “confirmation bias” – the idea that the troops making the decision to strike were too quick to conclude that what they saw matched intelligence and confirmed their conclusion to bomb what turned out to be the wrong car.

The review recommends that the military have personnel present with a strike team whose job it is to actively challenge those findings. The report says that using a so-called “red team” in such rapid-fire self-defense strikes could help avoid mistakes.

Said also recommended that the military improve its procedures to ensure that children and other innocent civilians are not present before launching an urgent strike.

For days after the strike, Pentagon officials claimed it was carried out correctly, despite growing reports that several civilians and children had died and growing doubts that the car contained explosives. Said’s review concluded that officials made their initial assessments too quickly and did not do enough analysis.

While Said’s report does not find individual fault or recommend discipline, officials said commanders may decide to take administrative action once they review his report.

The United States is working to pay the family financial reparations and eventually get them out of Afghanistan, but nothing has been finalized.

A second defense official said Austin asked General Frank McKenzie, chief of US Central Command, and General Richard Clarke, chief of US Special Operations Command, to come back to him with recommendations for changes. to fill in the gaps.

Said’s review reflects many of the findings McKenzie described several weeks after the investigation.

The Central Command review found that US forces followed the car for about eight hours and launched the strike with a “sincere belief” – based on a standard of “reasonable certainty” – that it posed an imminent threat to the car. US troops at Kabul airport. The car reportedly carried explosives in its trunk.

The airstrike was the latest in a US war that ended days later when the last US troops left Kabul airport, leaving the Taliban in power.

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