The Victims of the US Drone Strike in Kabul Were Civilians

About a month after the US airstrikes on a residential house in Kabul, the United States announced that it had targeted an American charity worker and his family members. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defence apologized for mistakenly killing ten civilians at an airstrike on Kabul airport.

Earlier, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff called the attack appropriate and said that Zamari Ahmadi, the driver of the vehicle, was a facilitator for Islamic State Khurasan Province (IS-KP). US President Joe Biden also said that IS-KP members had been targeted in the attack. According to a US official, after the threats at Kabul airport, a drone spotted Ahmadi loading explosives in his car.

After the attack, however, it was determined that the material loaded was barrels of drinking water. Most of the victims of the attack were children. When Zamari Ahmadi entered his house, all of his children had gone to greet him. Although Amnesty International welcomed the confession of US officials, it said the perpetrators should be punished and that the United States should pay “full compensation” to the victims’ survivors. It is worth noting that Zamari Ahmadi was an employee of an American charity. In those days he was trying to go to the United States with the help of international organizations and using his work experience.

All the victims of the airstrikes on a residential house in Kabul were civilians, US officials said on September 17. Zamari Ahmadi, an employee of an American charity and nine members of his family were killed in the incident. The attack took place on August 29 on a residential house near Kabul Airport. Although it was said at the time that the airstrike targeted an IS-KP car bomb, US officials now admit they have attacked a wrong target.

How Did This Happen?

The U.S. drone was tracking Zamari Ahmadi based on information shared with U.S. officials about IS-KP programs, a U.S. official told the media. According to him, the drone had seen people loading explosives in Ahmadi’s car, but now it has become clear that the objects moved were not explosives. It was barrels of water. Ahmadi’s car was blown up as he tried to bring barrels of drinking water into his home. He lived in a shared house with three other brothers, and was greeted by several children during the attack.

Furthermore, the drone monitored the backyard about four to five minutes before the attack according to U.S. officials. At the time of the attack, it was observed that the driver was leaving the car and another child wanted to park the same car. Other children were in the car and in the yard at the time of the airstrike. “The military based the strike on a reasonable certainty standard to launch the strike on the vehicle,” a US military official familiar with the investigation told CNN earlier Friday. “Tragically, it was the wrong vehicle.” At least 10 civilians were killed in the incident.

The US Officially Apologized

Centcom Chief of Staff Frank McKenzie said on Friday that the target was linked to the IS-KP. He blamed the attack, which killed seven children, and formally offered apologies. “The attack was carried out believing that it was a threat to our forces and evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake and I sincerely apologize,” McKenzie added. “The US military chief of staff claimed responsibility for the airstrikes, calling it tragic.

McKenzie called the attack a “terrible mistake,” but said he did not consider the entire operation to be a failure. “Although I agree that this attack certainly does not meet our standards and I deeply regret it, I do not consider all operations carried out under such circumstances to be included in this situation,” said McKenzie. According to McKenzie, they carried out the attack because they thought they had a good aim. The results of the investigation into the attack were shared with US President Joe Biden on Friday, September 17.

Although Mike Millie, the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, said earlier that the attack was appropriate and that Zamari Ahmadi was facilitating IS-KP, he now calls the attack a “terrible tragedy.” He said on Friday that although US commanders had used the accuracy of their target, after investigation, it became clear that “unarmed civilians” had been targeted. “This is a terrible and tragic war tragedy, and we are committed to making it very clear,” he added.

Secretary of defence Lloyd Austin also lamented the incident. In a statement issued Friday, he apologized and offered his condolences to Ahmadi’s family. “We now know that there is no connection between Zamri Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan,” Austin added. “His activities that day were completely harmless and in no way related to the imminent threat we believed we were facing. Mr. Ahmadi is just as innocent. He was the victim and the others were tragically killed.”

The Secretary of defence said he had conducted a thorough investigation by the Central Command and a statement that strengthened the military to carry out the attack. He clarified that if the army believes that it has taken the life of an innocent person, it should be investigated and objected to. However, he said that you should try as hard as the members of the army not to repeat such an event regardless of the applicable conditions and pressures. He said the US military working to prevent such attacks.

Prior to the announcement, a U.S. official had told Fox News that Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US forces at Centcom, was due to announce the killing of the civilians soon, but said he had taken no action. McKenzie also did not refer to disciplinary action against the perpetrators of the incident during his statement.

The Perpetrators Will Be Punished?

Amnesty International called the confession an “important step” in responding to the incident, but said more needed to be done. The United States must now commit to a “thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation” into the incident, said Brian Costner, senior crisis adviser on Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Program. He said anyone suspected of carrying out the attack should be prosecuted in a “fair court”. Also, according to Kastner, the survivors of the victims of this incident should be informed about the progress of the investigation and they should be paid “full compensation”.

“It is worth noting that the US military was forced to admit its defeat in this attack only because of the emphasis of a global inspection in Afghanistan,” Brian Costner added. “Many similar attacks have taken place in Syria, Iraq and Somalia, and the United States continues to deny responsibility, while the families of the victims are suffering in silence.” According to him, the United States must ensure that it puts an end to illegal attacks, that it continuously and thoroughly investigates all allegations made by civilians harmed in the attacks.

Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International’s director of human rights security, said Biden’s government should not repeat the wrongdoings of its predecessors and should now make the protection of civilians a priority.

“Only by taking more meaningful steps to prevent civilian casualties as a result of all US deadly operations, as well as investigating and providing assistance to the injured, Biden can show that he is genuinely concerned about civilians,” Eviator said. He said there was no need to watch for “destructive US airstrikes” in Afghanistan and Syria. Rather, US presidents must abide by international law.

The airstrikes on Zamri Ahmadi’s house in Kabul took place three days after suicide bombers targeted Kabul airport. Two suicide bombings at Kabul airport killed more than 170 people and injured more than 150 others. 13 foreign soldiers were among those killed and 20 others were injured in the incident. IS-KP claimed responsibility for the blasts. The United States has since received more than 60 reports of imminent threats against US forces at Kabul International Airport.

In addition to Mark Millie, other US officials at the time also said members of the IS-KP had been targeted during the airstrikes. US President Joe Biden said after the incident that the airstrikes were carried out on IS-KP members and that US revenge was not over. However, two weeks after the incident, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he did not rule out the possibility of civilian casualties in the attack. Zamari Ahmadi worked with the United States as a charity worker. His family members had previously told the media that he was trying to travel to the United States in the same days with the help of international organizations based on his work experience.