Pentagon Doc Reveals US Lied About Afghan Civilians Killed in 2021 Drone Strike

One Amnesty International campaigner called the new report "more evidence that we need a huge change in how the U.S. uses lethal force and assesses and reveals its consequences."

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US military officials knew that an August 2021 drone strike in Kabul likely killed Afghan civilians including children but lied about it, a report published Friday revealed.

New York Times investigative reporter Azmat Khan analyzed a 66-page redacted US Central Command report on the August 29, 2021 drone strike that killed 10 members of the Ahmadi family, including seven children, outside their home in the Afghan capital. The strike took place during the chaotic final days of the US ground war in Afghanistan, just three days after a bombing that killed at least 182 people, including 13 American troops, at Kabul's international airport.

Zamarai Ahmadi, a 43-year-old aid worker for California-based nonprofit Nutrition and Education International, was carrying water containers that were mistaken for explosives when his Toyota Corolla was bombed by a Lockheed-Martin Hellfire missile fired from a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drone.

As reports of civilian casualties began circulating hours after the strike, US military officials claimed there were "no indications" that noncombatants were harmed in the attack, while stating that they would investigate whether a secondary explosion may have killed or wounded people nearby.

However, as the Times details:

Portions of a US Central Command investigation obtained by The New York Times show that military analysts reported within minutes of the strike that civilians may have been killed, and within three hours had assessed that at least three children were killed.

The documents also provide detailed examples of how assumptions and biases led to the deadly blunder.

Military analysts wrongly concluded, for example, that a package loaded into the car contained explosives because of its "careful handling and size," and that the driver's "erratic route" was evidence that he was trying to evade surveillance.


The investigation refers to an additional surveillance drone not under military control that was also tracking the vehicle but does not specify what it observed. The Times confirmed that the drone was operated by the CIA and observed children, possibly in the car, moments before impact, as CNN had reported.

US military officials initially claimed the "righteous strike" had prevented an imminent new attack on the airport. However they later admitted that the botched bombing was a "horrible mistake."

The military's investigation was completed less than two weeks after the strike. However, it was never released to the public. The Pentagon said it would not punish anyone for killing the Ahmadi family.

Hina Shamsi, an ACLU attorney representing families victims of the strike, told the Times that the investigation "makes clear that military personnel saw what they wanted to see and not reality, which was an Afghan aid worker going about his daily life."

"When confirmation bias was so deadly in this case, you have to ask how many other people targeted by the military over the years were also unjustly killed," Shamsi added.

Daphne Eviatar, who heads Amnesty International's Security With Human Rights program, called the new report "more evidence that we need a huge change in how the US uses lethal force and assesses and reveals its consequences."

Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

19 thoughts on “Pentagon Doc Reveals US Lied About Afghan Civilians Killed in 2021 Drone Strike”

  1. These coverups have been going on for decades. Of course they know they’re killing civilians.

  2. I’ve long said we ought to just replace the entire legal system with these magic video cameras that tell you who is what with such certainty you can execute whoever they convict, along with their proximate accomplices.

  3. I’m no expert, but does it seem odd the ACLU and Amnesty International seem so polite on this issue? Blaming “confirmation bias” and “horrible mistake” for a “smart bomb” attack on innocent civilians and no one gets punished? It’s like when three days ago, Prince Harry, “ruffled feathers” when he said “…he killed more than two dozen people in Afghanistan…” After “ruffled feathers,” what else can we do? Raise eyebrows? (Sarcasm alert)

    1. These “human rights” groups are more U.S. and western propaganda outlets than anything. Notice that they mainly complain about human rights violations by U.S. enemies, and almost never complain about what the U.S. does, which is far more and far worse.

  4. This is a but a needle in a haystack. This NYT reporter did a good job in trying to get some accountability from the MIC, and look how hard his path was, full of lies and denials. Just how many civilians have we murdered in all of our wars? No one even knows since denial and lies are the policy.

  5. You can’t reform the military via better reporting, punishment, or anything else. That’s just the way the military operates.

    The only thing that will do any good is to get the military, and the CIA, out of these countries.

    1. Those agencies are supposed to work for the people and under our elected representatives. The military and deep state have instead completed a successful coup, where they do what they want with impunity. The world and even the majority of people in the U.S. would be much better off if these entities were just eliminated, even though a country does need some form of military in order to avoid being invaded.

  6. While two wrongs don’t make it right, next time some Russophob hack brings up war crime charges just put a mirror in front of them.

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