Pentagon admits as much as 7 kids have been killed in an August 29 drone assault in Kabul
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon admitted Friday that up to 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were killed in a US drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan last month.
“As a combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this attack and its tragic outcome,” US Marine Corps general Kenneth McKenzie, commandant of US Central Command, told reporters.
“I offer my condolences to the family and friends of those killed,” said McKenzie.
The drone attack followed a suicide attack by the ISIS-K terrorist group that killed 13 US soldiers and dozen of Afghans near Hamid Karzai International Airport, where colossal evacuation efforts were under way as the US withdrew from Afghanistan.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie Jr., Commander of US Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Forces Committee during his hearing on the US Central Command and US Africa Command in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2022 and the Future Years Defense Program in Washington on Thursday, April 22, 2021.
Caroline Brehman | CQ Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
“This strike was carried out with the sincere belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our armed forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake,” McKenzie said.
The U.S. is considering making reparations to surviving family members, the general said. McKenzie said, however, that such payments could prove difficult as the US is no longer present in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon originally said the attack, which began August 29, killed two ISIS-K fighters believed to have been involved in planning attacks against US forces in Kabul.
Army Major William Taylor said at the time of the attack that there were no known civilian casualties. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US did not notify or coordinate with the Taliban prior to the attack. He added that the Department of Defense had not notified any other countries in the region or US lawmakers.
Members of the British Armed Forces continue to participate in the evacuation of eligible personnel from Kabul Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 19-22. August 2021, in this handout picture Reuters received on August 23, 2021.
UKMOD | via Reuters
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin described the civilian deaths as “terrible mistakes” and ordered a review to see if “accountability measures” needed to be taken and procedures changed.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, expressed concern about the transparency of the Department of Defense in the immediate aftermath of the strike and whether its public statements contained all of the information the government had at the time.
“This is an area that deserves additional oversight, and along with my colleagues in Congress, the House Intelligence Committee will continue to push for answers,” Schiff said.
In April, President Joe Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US soldiers from Afghanistan by September 11th. He later updated the schedule to August 31st.
In the final weeks of the planned exodus of foreign troops from the country, the Taliban achieved a number of shocking battlefield wins. On August 15, the group captured the presidential palace in Kabul, prompting Western governments to accelerate the evacuation of vulnerable Afghan nationals, diplomats and civilians.
After the Taliban came to power, Biden defended his decision to withdraw US soldiers from Afghanistan, but ordered the temporary deployment of thousands of US troops to Kabul to assist with the evacuation effort.
The US military mission in Afghanistan ended on August 31 after around 125,000 people were evacuated. Of these, approximately 6,000 were US citizens and their families.