WASHINGTON, United States – A U.S. drone strike in Kabul in August that killed 10 Afghan civilians was a tragic mistake but did not violate any law, a Pentagon inspector general said on Wednesday after an investigation.
Three adults, including a man who worked for a US aid group, and seven children were killed in the August 29 operation, which was reportedly targeted at a house and vehicle occupied by Islamic State militants.
“The investigation did not reveal any violations of the law, including the law of war. Execution errors combined with confirmation bias and communication disruptions resulted in regrettable civilian casualties, ”US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said said in a report.
“It was an honest mistake,” Said told Pentagon reporters.
“But this is not criminal conduct, random conduct, negligence,” he said.
Said said those directly involved in the strike, which took place during the US evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans after the Taliban took control of the country, sincerely believed “that they were aiming for an imminent strike ”.
“The intended target of the strike, the vehicle, its contents and its occupant, were truly assessed at the time as an imminent threat to US forces and the US mission at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the report said.
However, he said, the interpretation of the intelligence and observations of a targeted car and its occupants for eight hours were “unfortunately inaccurate,” he said.
“What probably broke down was not intelligence but the correlation of that intelligence with a specific house,” said Said.
– White crown, computer bag –
After a preliminary investigation, the Pentagon admitted on September 17 that it was a “tragic mistake” and pledged to compensate the surviving family members.
Said explained that there was not a single point of failure or one person to blame for the mistake. He also said it was not his responsibility to decide whether someone should be punished for the mistake.
The US military had reports that IS militants were planning a new attack on the evacuation operations, three days after a suicide bomber at the airport killed 13 US servicemen and dozens of Afghans.
The secret services had shown them a white Toyota Corolla. The car was believed to contain explosives like those used in the previous attack.
But a mistake, Said admitted, was that they were following the wrong car.
“In fact, we never ended up following the real Toyota Corolla,” he said.
“We just didn’t get the Toyota Corolla that we think we should have got back.”
He also said those involved in the operation believed the house at the target’s site was empty.
“They were convinced that there were no children in the compound. It turns out to be wrong, ”he said.
None of the people carrying out the operation noticed a child entering the target area just two minutes before the rocket was fired.
The operation had been given to “confirmation bias” – a tendency to make decisions about what to expect to see.
US officials believed the previous airport bomber used a computer bag to carry explosives.
Because of this, when analysts planning the U.S. strike saw people they watched trade in a computer bag, they were more convinced they had the right target.
“In the end, and we can tell, it was a computer bag,” not explosives, Said said.
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