The Pentagon has retreated from its defence of a drone strike that killed multiple civilians in Afghanistan last month.
The Pentagon acknowledged that a drone strike in Afghanistan killed civilians, including seven children, not terrorists.
Officials said deadly drone strike in Kabul mistakenly killed civilians, not Daesh extremists.
"The strike was a tragic mistake," Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told a Pentagon news conference on Friday.
McKenzie apologised for the error and said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims. He said the decision to strike a white Toyota Corolla sedan, after having tracked it for about eight hours, was made in an "earnest belief" — based on a standard of "reasonable certainty" — that it posed an imminent threat to American forces at Kabul airport. The car was believed to have been carrying explosives in its trunk, he said.
On Friday the Pentagon has retreated from its defence of a drone strike that killed multiple civilians in Afghanistan last month, announcing that a review revealed that only civilians were killed in the attack, not an Daesh extremist as first believed.
For days after the Aug. 29 strike, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, despite 10 civilians being killed, including seven children.
Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, despite 10 civilians being killed.
News organisations later raised doubts about that version of events, reporting that the driver of the targeted vehicle was a longtime employee at an American humanitarian organisation and citing an absence of evidence to support the Pentagon's assertion that the vehicle contained explosives.
The airstrike was the last of a US war that ended as it had begun in 2001 — with the Taliban in power in Kabul. The speed with which the Taliban overran the country took the US government by surprise and forced it to send several thousand troops to the Kabul airport for a hurried evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others. The evacuation, which began Aug. 14, unfolded under a near-constant threat of attack by the Daesh group’s Afghanistan affiliate.
McKenzie, who oversaw US military operations in Afghanistan, including a final evacuation of US forces and more than 120,000 civilians from Kabul airport, expressed his condolences to the family and friends of those killed.
Gen. Frank McKenzie appears on screen as he speaks from MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida. AP
"I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike," McKenzie said. "Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to US forces," he added, referring to the Daesh group's Afghanistan affiliate.
Prior to the strike, US intelligence had indicated a likelihood that a white Toyota Corolla would be used in an attack against US forces, McKenzie said. On the morning of Aug. 29, such a vehicle was detected at a compound in Kabul that US intelligence in the preceding 48 hours had determined was used by the Daesh group to plan and facilitate attacks. The vehicle was tracked by US drone aircraft from that compound to numerous other locations in the city before the decision was made to attack it at a point just a couple of miles from Kabul airport, McKenzie said.
"Clearly our intelligence was wrong on this particular white Toyota Corolla," he said.
A plume of smoke rose over central Kabul shortly after midnight and sirens could be heard. Inside the embassy, employees heard this message over the loudspeaker: "An explosion caused by a rocket has occurred on compound."
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai also defended the Taliban's role in recent bloodshed across the country after US President Donald Trump cited an attack that killed an American soldier as his reason for calling off negotiations earlier this month.
According to a pool report from a journalist accompanying Pompeo, the top US diplomat was welcomed by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — the lead US negotiator in recent talks with the Taliban — after arriving at Kabul airport.
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