US Air Force Inspector General Lieutenant General Sami Said Wednesday provided his findings and recommendations on the August 2021 US drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians. He stated that the drone strike was caused by a series of errors, including not noticing a child right before the strike, not by criminal negligence.
On August 29, a drone strike on a white Toyota Corolla sedan in Kabul killed 10 civilians, three men, and seven children. One of the men, Zemerai Ahmadi, was an employee of an American humanitarian organization. Although US Central Command originally stated that it eliminated “an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport,” Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, stated on September 17 that the strike was a “tragic mistake.”
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall tasked General Said to investigate the strike. General Said stated that he conducted a thorough and independent investigation of what happened, without relying on any previous investigations or analysis.
In his statement Wednesday, Said acknowledged that the investigation report was classified because the sources, methods, tactics, techniques, and procedures in executing the strikes are sensitive material.
While he said the strike was “regrettable,” Said stated that the decision was “understandable based on the information available at the time and the perceived very high threat to U.S. forces at HKIA.” The investigation found no violation of law but did uncover execution errors. The timeframe of the strike “was insufficient to drill down sufficiently, to provide sufficient insight and reach conclusions that are really sound and based on facts.”
The investigation resulted in three recommendations. The first recommendation involved implementing procedures in similar situations to mitigate the risk of confirmation bias. The second recommendation was to enhance situational awareness by sharing information within the strike cell, and the last recommendation was a review of how civilian presence is assessed.