Pentagon won’t punish troops in wrongful Kabul drone strike

After months of investigations, US commanders have decided not to reprimand any military personnel involved with a wrongful drone strike in Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians earlier this year.

In August, the US carried out a drone strike on what they believed to be a credible threat to ground forces not long before US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. Intelligence believed that the targeted individual, Zemari Ahmadi, was preparing for another attack on US troops near Kabul’s airport.

Ahmadi and nine of his family members were killed after US forces followed him in his white Toyota Corolla, a car that matched the description of a possible future attacker, from work to home over several hours. The US believed he placed explosives in his vehicle after visiting a likely terrorist safe house. However, the objects turned out to be his computer, and most likely, water for his family because water shipments ended once the Taliban took control.

The drone strike US officials once praised as a “righteous strike” was uncovered by the New York Times to be a wrongful identification leading to the killing of Ahmadi and many of his family members. Monday, the New York Times reported that no disciplinary action will be taken on the operations personnel.

A high-level investigation by Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said blamed execution errors, confirmation bias, and communication breakdown. The investigation also found that nothing the US did was illegal and then left the decision of reprimanding any service members to two senior commanders.

“What we saw here was a breakdown in process, and execution in procedural events, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership,” John Kirby, chief spokeperson for the Pentagon told reporters.

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, was one of the two commanders tasked with disciplinary actions. In September, he stated the drone strike “was a mistake” and said he is “fully responsible for this strike and the tragic outcome.”

The Pentagon has offered to pay the family of Ahmadi an undisclosed amount in condolence payments and work to bring them here to the United States, but negotiations look to have broken down.

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