One of the final deadly strikes by the US in its 20-year war in Afghanistan has been challenged by investigations in leading US media.
According to the New York Times and the Washington Post, the US-led strike that was supposed to target an Islamic State operative killed an aid worker on the job in Kabul.
They claim their evidence refutes US military claims that explosives in the targeted car caused a secondary explosion.
The Pentagon maintained that it had averted a “imminent threat.”
According to relatives, a Hellfire missile fired from a Reaper drone on the vehicle on August 29 killed 10 members of one family, including six children.
The US military was on high alert after a suicide bomber killed over 100 civilians and 13 US troops outside Kabul airport three days earlier, as civilians and officials were evacuated amid the Taliban’s takeover of the capital.
- Who are the group claiming the Kabul airport attack?
- Black Hawks and Humvees: Taliban’s military gains
The 20-year mission for foreign troops came to an end on August 30 with the final US flight out.
The Times and the Post examined video and photographic evidence, interviewed experts and witnesses, and both concluded that there were no explosives in the vehicle.
The US military stated that it did not know the identity of the man targeted prior to the strike, but that he was believed to be associated with the Islamic State group’s Afghan branch.
At the time, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Mark Milley, called it a “righteous strike.”
The target, according to the Post and Times, was Ezmarai Ahmadi, 43, who worked for the California-based Nutrition and Education International (NEI) aid organisation and was applying for resettlement in the United States.
According to the New York Times, the US military thought it was tracking a white sedan from an IS safe house and intercepted communications that led to several suspicious stops involving the collection and delivery of items.
According to US officials, one collection appeared to be heavy packages containing explosives.
According to the paper, it has studied security footage that shows Ahmadi picking up laptops as well as water canisters – as there was a water shortage – on what a colleague described as a typical day.
Ahmadi later drove himself home. According to reports, US drone operatives saw him conversing with another male and decided to strike. However, family members gathered around him. The youngest victim was two years old.
According to NEI president Steven Kwon, the charity owned the white Toyota sedan.
He denied any links between the compound and ISIS. “We’re attempting to assist others. Why would we have explosives if we weren’t going to kill people? “He inquired.
According to the New York Times, the local Islamic State group admitted to a rocket attack the next day, which was launched from a white Toyota similar to Ahmadi’s.
The Pentagon claims that a larger explosion following the drone strike revealed the presence of explosives in the sedan.
According to the Post and Times, there is little evidence of this.
The Washington Post sent images of the scene to experts for analysis. One expert, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, believes there was no significant amount of explosives in the car. He speculated that fuel vapours may have triggered a secondary explosion.
According to post-blast assessment expert Brian Castner, the second blast was most likely “just the car burning or related to the gas or oil.”
According to three weapons experts, the lack of nearby explosive evidence – only one dent on a nearby gate, no blown-out walls, no sign that a second car in the courtyard was overturned, and no destroyed vegetation – was significant.
The US response
It has yet to provide a complete or final report on the drone strike.
In response to the latest media reports, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stated that the US Central Command “continues to assess” the strike, but that “no other military works harder than we do to prevent civilian casualties,” according to Agence France-Presse.
“As Chairman Milley stated, the strike was based on good intelligence, and we continue to believe that it prevented an imminent threat to the airport and our men and women,” said Mr Kirby.