What's being called an "independent" Pentagon investigation has now concluded over the Aug.29 drone strike on a car in Kabul which killed innocent civilians at a moment US troops were overseeing a desperate, chaotic evacuation from the Afghan capital's airport. US defense officials had initially hailed it as a "successful" operation to kill ISIS-K terrorists.
It was widely seen as a 'revenge' strike for the days prior ISIS suicide attack at an airport gate which killed 13 American troops and 169 Afghans. Weeks later, a New York Times investigation revealed the strike actually took out a local worker for a US humanitarian organization named Zemerai Ahmadi and his nine family members - seven of which were children. Meanwhile the Pentagon kept altering its narrative of events until belatedly admitting the mass killing of an innocent family.
"An independent Pentagon review has concluded that the U.S. drone strike that killed innocent Kabul civilians and children in the final days of the Afghanistan war was not caused by misconduct or negligence, and it doesn’t recommend any disciplinary action," The Associated Press is reporting Wednesday. More simply, there will be no accountability.
The review was overseen by Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said. The military deemed him an "independent" judge in the matter due to his not being connected to any operations in Afghanistan.
In short, based on the AP's description of what it's learned of the final report, the official review ultimately found no wrongdoing worthy of discipline or punitive actions against any high or low ranking official as everything can be chalked up to "good intentions" (our word choice). And there's the classic "mistakes were made" rhetoric to boot...of course shielding anyone in the Biden administration.
According to the AP:
The review, done by the Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said, found there were breakdowns in communication and in the process of identifying and confirming the target of the bombing, according to a senior defense official familiar with the report. But, Said concluded that the mistaken strike happened despite prudent measures to prevent civilian deaths, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a report not yet released.
Said’s review said the drone strike must be considered in the context of the moment, as U.S. forces under stress were being flooded by information about threats to troops and civilians at the Kabul airport, just days after a deadly suicide bombing. Thousands of Afghans were swarming the airport, trying to get out of the country following the Taliban takeover.
According to the official, Said found that better communication between those making the strike decision and other support personnel might have raised more doubts about the bombing, but in the end may not have prevented it.
The AP notes that the highest ranks of Pentagon leadership have signed off on the investigative review, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who has made a series of recommended changes in targeting procedures designed to mitigate "confirmation bias" - which leads to overly hasty assumptions that a target being followed must be the correct target.
And then there's the below surreal explanation by Gen. Said during a Wednesday press conference wherein the Pentagon is exonerating itself...
Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said says “evidence of a child was apparent” two minutes before U.S. military launched a drone strike that killed innocent civilians and children in Kabul before U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.— The Recount (@therecount) November 3, 2021
But he says the evidence was “100% not obvious.” pic.twitter.com/Ythnlx4eEH
Again, here's more of what sounds like the Pentagon is simply shrugging off this clear war crime as essentially unfortunate but justified based on mere good intentions: "Said concluded that US forces genuinely believed that the car they were following was an imminent threat and that they needed to strike it before it got closer to the airport."
Naturally, Afghans themselves are wondering just how the Pentagon would come to such a conclusion which results in zero US accountability...
"According to the Inspector General, there was a mistake but no one acted wrongly, and I’m left wondering, how can that be?" Response of the President of the aid organization that employed Zemari Ahmadi--to whom Mr. Ahmadi was like a son--and ACLU here: https://t.co/2nnWJ9K701 https://t.co/UgxKmPjf7n— Hina Shamsi (@HinaShamsi) November 3, 2021
It begs the question: would Washington leaders ever accept such an explanation of but they "genuinely believed" the car full of innocent civilians was a threat in similar circumstances from other countries, especially rivals like Russia or China, or official enemies like the Iranians or Assad's Syria?