Pentagon defends Kabul drone strike that reportedly killed civilians

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Pentagon defends Kabul drone strike that reportedly killed civilians

The Pentagon defended a deadly August drone strike in Kabul on Monday – despite a report that the attack actually killed an innocent man and his family.

The second of a pair of drone airstrikes in the waning days of the Afghanistan war is now being investigated by Central Command, but details are scarce and there remains a question of how much information will be shared once the probe is completed.

“I would say that the assessment by Central Command is ongoing and I’m not gonna get ahead of that,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a news briefing on Monday. “The strike was taken to prevent an imminent attack on the airport.”

A reporter pressed Kirby to commit to releasing the results of that assessment, but the press secretary said what can be shared may be limited by ongoing US intelligence efforts and continued operations by terrorist group ISIS-K.

“We will be as transparent about the outcomes as we can be and we have tried to be since the strike was taken,” Kirby said.

People at the scene of the drone strike in Kabul that reportedly killed innocent civilians on August 29, 2021.
People at the scene of the drone strike in Kabul that reportedly killed innocent civilians on August 29, 2021.
AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi, F

The drone attack of Aug. 29 came one day before the final evacuation of flights from Kabul as the US ended its military presence in the war-torn country.

But a New York Times report said that the US killed Zemari Ahmadi – a man who worked 14 years for an aid group – and nine members of his family. Ahmadi had been reportedly looking to move to the US as a refugee.

The report also called into question the Pentagon claim that there was a secondary explosion at the site, triggered when US missiles ignited explosives there.

That strike and one other came after the Aug. 26 terrorist suicide bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 US service members and more than 160 Afghans.

The Biden administration said it struck back on Aug. 27, killing two suspected members of ISIS in a drone strike. But the names of those killed, or who was being targeted, have yet to be released. The Pentagon declined to release those identities again on Monday.

A funeral for Zemari Ahmadi, one of the victims of the drone strike.
A funeral for Zemari Ahmadi, one of the victims of the drone strike.
Photo by MARCUS YAM/LOS ANGELES TIMES/Shutterstock

“What I can say is I cannot confirm them at this time,” Kirby said.

Asked if there is a time he will be able to confirm them, he replied, “I just can’t confirm them at this time … I think I need to leave it there.”

Kirby also said it didn’t seem investigators would be able to step foot in Afghanistan as part of the process.

“I’m not aware of any option that would put investigators on the ground in Kabul to complete their assessment,” he said.

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