The US drone strike in Kabul killed at least 10 civilians, including several children, last month. (AP File Photo)
The US drone strike in Kabul killed at least 10 civilians, including several children, last month. (AP File Photo)

Did US make a mistake? Report claims Kabul drone strike killed aid worker, 9 of his family members

The US drone strike came the day before American troops ended their 20-year mission and following a deadly attack outside the Kabul airport. 
By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON SEP 11, 2021 11:40 AM IST

The US may have mistakenly targeted an aid worker rather than Islamic State fighters in a drone strike in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which killed 10 people, The New York Times has reported using video analysis and interviews. According to the Pentagon, it foiled a new attack planned by the Islamic State through a Reaper drone strike on August 29 in the last known missile fired by the United States in its two-decade war in Afghanistan. The drone strike came the day before US troops ended their 20-year mission and following a deadly attack outside the Kabul airport, which killed 13 service members and at least 170 Afghans trying to escape the Taliban.

The US military called it a “righteous strike” and officials have said that the drone attack in a dense area near Kabul airport was carried out after hours of surveillance on a white sedan, which they thought was carrying explosives. However, the New York Times said its “investigation of video evidence, along with interviews with more than a dozen of the driver’s co-workers and family members in Kabul, raises doubts about the US version of events, including whether explosives were present in the vehicle, whether the driver had a connection to ISIS, and whether there was a second explosion after the missile struck the car.”

Also read | Several children killed in US drone strike on IS in Afghanistan: Reports

Ahmadi’s brother Romal told the Times that 10 members of their family, including seven children, were killed in the strike—Ahmadi and three of his children, Zamir, 20, Faisal, 16, and Farzad, 10; Ahmadi’s cousin Naser, 30; three of Romal’s children, Arwin, 7, Benyamin, 6, and Hayat, 2; and two 3-year-old girls, Malika and Somaya. However, the US said three people were killed in that drone strike on that day.

The New York Times said Ahmadi, 43, worked as an electrical engineer for California-based aid and lobbying group, Nutrition and Education International, since 2006. It reported the US military may have been seeing Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water, which was in short supply after the collapse of the Western-backed government and picking up a laptop for his boss.

Also read | Will continue drone strikes in Afghanistan 'if and when needed': Pentagon

US officials say that a larger blast took place after the drone strike, showing that there were explosives in the vehicle. Times visual investigations team and a Times reporter examined the scene of the strike the morning after the drone strike and followed up with a second visit four days later. The report said they found no evidence of a second, more powerful explosion. “Experts who examined photos and videos pointed out that, although there was clear evidence of a missile strike and subsequent vehicle fire, there were no collapsed or blown-out walls, no destroyed vegetation, and only one dent in the entrance gate, indicating a single shock wave,” it said.

“It seriously questions the credibility of the intelligence or technology utilized to determine this was a legitimate target,” Chris Cobb-Smith, a British Army veteran and security consultant, told the Times.

Also read | Civilian casualties due to US drone strike 'being investigated': White House official Jen Psaki

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said while commenting on the report that US Central Command "continues to assess" the strike but that "no other military works harder than we do to prevent civilian casualties." "As Chairman (Mark) Milley said, the strike was based on good intelligence, and we still believe that it prevented an imminent threat to the airport and to our men and women that were still serving at the airport," Kirby said, referring to the top US general.

The New York Times noted that a rocket attack the following morning, claimed by the Islamic State group, was carried out from a Toyota Corolla similar to Ahmadi's.

Ahmadi’s relatives have questioned why he would have a motivation to attack Americans when he had already applied for refugee resettlement in the US. “All of them were innocent. You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans,” Emal, Ahmadi’s brother, said.

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