Pentagon Defends Deadly Drone Strike in Kabul

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon continued to claim on Monday that the final U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan was vital to stop an assault on American troops, regardless of a New York Times investigation that raises doubts concerning the navy’s model of occasions, together with whether or not explosives had been in the car that was blown up and whether or not the driving force had a connection to the Islamic State.

The Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, stated that Central Command, which carried out the strike on Aug. 29 in the waning days of America’s 20-year battle in Afghanistan, was investigating the outcomes. But that inquiry, Mr. Kirby advised to reporters, could also be restricted to what Central Command can glean from intercepts, video imagery and interviews with sources.

“I’m not going to get ahead of what Centcom is doing with their assessment of that strike,” Mr. Kirby stated at a information convention. “I am not aware of any option that would put investigators on the ground in Kabul to complete their assessment.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have stated that the missile was launched as a result of the navy had intelligence suggesting a reputable, imminent risk to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the place U.S. and allied troops had been frantically making an attempt to evacuate folks. General Milley later referred to as the strike “righteous.”

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Did a U.S. Drone Strike in Afghanistan Kill the Wrong Person?

The New York Times obtained unique safety digicam footage and witness accounts to point out how the navy launched a drone strike that killed 10 folks in Kabul on Aug. 29 with out realizing whom it was hitting.

[explosion] In one of many last acts of its 20-year battle in Afghanistan, the United States fired a missile from a drone at a automobile in Kabul. It was parked in the courtyard of a house, and the explosion killed 10 folks, together with 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi and 7 kids, in response to his household. The Pentagon claimed that Ahmadi was a facilitator for the Islamic State, and that his automobile was filled with explosives, posing an imminent risk to U.S. troops guarding the evacuation on the Kabul airport. “The procedures were correctly followed, and it was a righteous strike.” What the navy apparently didn’t know was that Ahmadi was a longtime support employee, who colleagues and relations stated spent the hours earlier than he died operating workplace errands, and ended his day by pulling as much as his home. Soon after, his Toyota was hit with a 20-pound Hellfire missile. What was interpreted because the suspicious strikes of a terrorist could have simply been a median day in his life. And it’s potential that what the navy noticed Ahmadi loading into his automobile had been water canisters he was bringing residence to his household — not explosives. Using never-before seen safety digicam footage of Ahmadi, interviews along with his household, co-workers and witnesses, we’ll piece collectively for the primary time his actions in the hours earlier than he was killed. Zemari Ahmadi was engineer by coaching. For 14 years, he had labored for the Kabul workplace of Nutrition and Education International. “NEI established a total of 11 soybean processing plants in Afghanistan.” It’s a California primarily based NGO that fights malnutrition. On most days, he drove one of many firm’s white Toyota corollas, taking his colleagues to and from work and distributing the NGO’s meals to Afghans displaced by the battle. Only three days earlier than Ahmadi was killed, 13 U.S. troops and greater than 170 Afghan civilians died in an Islamic State suicide assault on the airport. The navy had given lower-level commanders the authority to order airstrikes earlier in the evacuation, they usually had been bracing for what they feared was one other imminent assault. To reconstruct Ahmadi’s actions on Aug. 29, in the hours earlier than he was killed, The Times pieced collectively the safety digicam footage from his workplace, with interviews with greater than a dozen of Ahmadi’s colleagues and relations. Ahmadi seems to have left his residence round 9 a.m. He then picked up a colleague and his boss’s laptop computer close to his home. It’s round this time that the U.S. navy claimed it noticed a white sedan leaving an alleged Islamic State safehouse, round 5 kilometers northwest of the airport. That’s why the U.S. navy stated they tracked Ahmadi’s Corolla that day. They additionally stated they intercepted communications from the safehouse, instructing the automobile to make a number of stops. But each colleague who rode with Ahmadi that day stated what the navy interpreted as a sequence of suspicious strikes was only a typical day in his life. After Ahmadi picked up one other colleague, the three stopped to get breakfast, and at 9:35 a.m., they arrived on the N.G.O.’s workplace. Later that morning, Ahmadi drove a few of his co-workers to a Taliban-occupied police station to get permission for future meals distribution at a brand new displacement camp. At round 2 p.m., Ahmadi and his colleagues returned to the workplace. The safety digicam footage we obtained from the workplace is essential to understanding what occurs subsequent. The digicam’s timestamp is off, however we went to the workplace and verified the time. We additionally matched an actual scene from the footage with a timestamp satellite tv for pc picture to substantiate it was correct. A 2:35 p.m., Ahmadi pulls out a hose, after which he and a co-worker fill empty containers with water. Earlier that morning, we noticed Ahmadi deliver these similar empty plastic containers to the workplace. There was a water scarcity in his neighborhood, his household stated, so he usually introduced water residence from the workplace. At round three:38 p.m., a colleague strikes Ahmadi’s automobile additional into the driveway. A senior U.S. official informed us that at roughly the identical time, the navy noticed Ahmadi’s automobile pull into an unknown compound eight to 12 kilometers southwest of the airport. That overlaps with the situation of the NGO’s workplace, which we imagine is what the navy referred to as an unknown compound. With the workday ending, an worker switched off the workplace generator and the feed from the digicam ends. We don’t have footage of the moments that adopted. But it’s presently, the navy stated that its drone feed confirmed 4 males gingerly loading wrapped packages into the automobile. Officials stated they couldn’t inform what was inside them. This footage from earlier in the day exhibits what the lads stated they had been carrying — their laptops one in a plastic buying bag. And the one issues in the trunk, Ahmadi’s co-workers stated, had been the water containers. Ahmadi dropped every considered one of them off, then drove to his residence in a dense neighborhood close to the airport. He backed into the house’s small courtyard. Children surrounded the automobile, in response to his brother. A U.S. official stated the navy feared the automobile would go away once more, and go into an much more crowded road or to the airport itself. The drone operators, who hadn’t been watching Ahmadi’s residence in any respect that day, rapidly scanned the courtyard and stated they noticed just one grownup male speaking to the driving force and no kids. They determined this was the second to strike. A U.S. official informed us that the strike on Ahmadi’s automobile was performed by an MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired a single Hellfire missile with a 20-pound warhead. We discovered remnants of the missile, which specialists stated matched a Hellfire on the scene of the assault. In the times after the assault, the Pentagon repeatedly claimed that the missile strike set off different explosions, and that these doubtless killed the civilians in the courtyard. “Significant secondary explosions from the targeted vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.” “Because there were secondary explosions, there’s a reasonable conclusion to be made that there was explosives in that vehicle.” But a senior navy official later informed us that it was solely potential to possible that explosives in the automobile brought on one other blast. We gathered photographs and movies of the scene taken by journalists and visited the courtyard a number of instances. We shared the proof with three weapons specialists who stated the harm was in step with the affect of a Hellfire missile. They pointed to the small crater beneath Ahmadi’s automobile and the harm from the steel fragments of the warhead. This plastic melted on account of a automobile hearth triggered by the missile strike. All three specialists additionally identified what was lacking: any proof of the big secondary explosions described by the Pentagon. No collapsed or blown-out partitions, together with subsequent to the trunk with the alleged explosives. No signal that a second automobile parked in the courtyard was overturned by a big blast. No destroyed vegetation. All of this matches what eyewitnesses informed us, that a single missile exploded and triggered a big hearth. There is one last element seen in the wreckage: containers an identical to those that Ahmadi and his colleague crammed with water and loaded into his trunk earlier than heading residence. Even although the navy stated the drone workforce watched the automobile for eight hours that day, a senior official additionally stated they weren’t conscious of any water containers. The Pentagon has not offered The Times with proof of explosives in Ahmadi’s car or shared what they are saying is the intelligence that linked him to the Islamic State. But the morning after the U.S. killed Ahmadi, the Islamic State did launch rockets on the airport from a residential space Ahmadi had pushed by the day before today. And the car they used … … was a white Toyota. The U.S. navy has up to now acknowledged solely three civilian deaths from its strike, and says there may be an investigation underway. They have additionally admitted to realizing nothing about Ahmadi earlier than killing him, main them to interpret the work of an engineer at a U.S. NGO as that of an Islamic State terrorist. Four days earlier than Ahmadi was killed, his employer had utilized for his household to obtain refugee resettlement in the United States. At the time of the strike, they had been nonetheless awaiting approval. Looking to the U.S. for defense, they as a substitute turned among the final victims in America’s longest battle. “Hi, I’m Evan, one of the producers on this story. Our latest visual investigation began with word on social media of an explosion near Kabul airport. It turned out that this was a U.S. drone strike, one of the final acts in the 20-year war in Afghanistan. Our goal was to fill in the gaps in the Pentagon’s version of events. We analyzed exclusive security camera footage, and combined it with eyewitness accounts and expert analysis of the strike aftermath. You can see more of our investigations by signing up for our newsletter.”

The New York Times obtained unique safety digicam footage and witness accounts to point out how the navy launched a drone strike that killed 10 folks in Kabul on Aug. 29 with out realizing whom it was hitting.CreditCredit…By The New York Times. Video body: Nutrition & Education International.

Military officers stated they didn’t know the id of the automobile’s driver when the drone fired, however that they had deemed him suspicious due to his actions that day: He had presumably visited an Islamic State protected home, they stated, and at one level he loaded into the car what they thought could possibly be explosives.

Times reporting has recognized the driving force as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime employee for a U.S. support group. Evidence means that his travels that day concerned transporting colleagues to and from work. And an evaluation of video feeds confirmed that what the navy may need seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to deliver residence to his household.

While the U.S. navy stated the drone strike may need killed three civilians, Times reporting confirmed that it killed 10, together with seven kids, in a dense residential block.

Mr. Ahmadi, 43, labored as engineer for Nutrition and Education International, a California-based support group. The morning of the strike, his boss referred to as from the workplace round eight:45 a.m. and requested him to select up his laptop computer.

“I asked him if he was still at home, and he said yes,” the nation director stated in an interview on the support group’s workplace in Kabul. Like the remainder of Mr. Ahmadi’s colleagues, he spoke on the situation of anonymity due to his affiliation with an American firm in Afghanistan.

According to his family members, Mr. Ahmadi left for work round 9 a.m. in a white 1996 Toyota Corolla that belonged to N.E.I., departing from his home, the place he lived along with his three brothers and their households, a couple of kilometers west of the Kabul airport.

U.S. officers informed The Times that it was round this time that their goal, a white sedan, first got here beneath surveillance, after it was seen leaving a compound recognized as a suspected ISIS protected home, about 5 kilometers northwest of the airport.