Ten civilians, including as many as seven children, and no terrorists were killed in Kabul by a drone strike that the Pentagon had hailed initially as “righteous,” the Pentagon announced Friday.
“Our investigation now concludes the strike was a tragic mistake,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, chief of U.S. Central Command, said Friday. “As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.” He offered his “profound condolences” to the families and friends of those who were killed, adding that the Pentagon is considering reparations.
“This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport,” he said. “But it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology. McKenzie went on to say.
U.S. forces launched the strike after they had tracked a white Toyota Corolla for eight hours and deemed it an imminent threat, McKenzie said. There had been more than 60 pieces of intelligence at the time that indicated an attack was coming, he said. As many as six Reaper drones had followed the vehicle, he added.
Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters two days after the attack that it appeared to have been a “righteous” strike and that at least one of the people killed was a “facilitator” for ISIS-K – the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.
Gen Milley has since backtracked, saying: “This is a horrible tragedy of war and it’s heart-wrenching.” Gen MacKenzie said US officials had received a “substantial body of evidence indicating the imminence of another attack” after the Kabul bombing, with intelligence suggesting a white Toyota Corolla would be used.