The Pentagon admitted on Friday that a U.S.-ordered drone strike in Afghanistan in late August did not kill any “high-profile” ISIS-K terrorists as the administration claimed but tragically killed at least 10 civilians, seven of whom were children.
“I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of United States Central Command, said before pledging that the U.S. is “exploring the possibility” of ex gratia payments for the living relatives of those killed by the strike.
BREAKING: Pentagon acknowledges a Kabul airstrike on August 29 killed as many as 10 civilians — including up to 7 children — and it's "unlikely" they were associated with ISIS-K or a threat to U.S. forces.
"It was a mistake, and I offer my sincere apologies," Gen. McKenzie says pic.twitter.com/W31OnUOUBO
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 17, 2021
Originally, U.S. Central Command touted the “over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation” as having successfully killed one “ISIS-K planner.” Despite the U.S. Department of Defense’s confidence that specifically two terrorist “planners and facilitators” died as a result of the drone strike and a third was wounded, the Pentagon refused to release the alleged “high-profile” terrorists’ names.
“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the Earth, that’s a good thing,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. “It’s a good thing for the people of Afghanistan, and it’s a good thing for our troops and our forces at that airfield.”
Gen. McKenzie: “This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to forces at the airport. It was a mistake & I offer my sincere apology. As a commander, I’m fully responsible for this strike & its tragic outcome.”
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) September 17, 2021
Even when news reports indicated that the U.S.-ordered strike killed 10 Afghan family members, seven of whom were children, the Pentagon simply pledged to investigate the civilian deaths but refused to say anything else on the matter.
“It can’t simply be a ‘whoops’ with these results: TEN civilians (with SEVEN children) and NO terrorists. If we don’t punish anyone, we are no better than barbarians. To be clear, I’m not looking for political resignations, I’m looking for criminal accountability under the UCMJ.”
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 17, 2021
Gen. Mark Milley, who is under fire for making potentially treasonous phone calls to his counterpart in communist China, originally called the operation a “righteous” strike but cushioned his claim on Friday after the news broke.
“In a dynamic high threat environment, the commanders on the ground had appropriate authority and had reasonable certainty that the target was valid, but after deeper post-strike analysis, our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed,” Milley said in a statement. “This is a horrible tragedy of war and it’s heart-wrenching and we are committed to being fully transparent about this incident.”