Three days after a suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. service members and approximately 170 Afghanistan civilians outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in August, the U.S. military was on high alert.
It had received intelligence indicating that the terrorist group known as ISIS-K, which had claimed responsibility for the deadly blast, was planning a second strike.
On Sunday, Aug. 29, one day before the last U.S. evacuation flight left Afghanistan, the military carried out a drone strike on a target it said was heading for a second airport attack.
At the time, U.S. Central Command spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban issued a statement explaining that: “U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.”
The statement also said the military is “assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time.”
Later that day, Urban issued an update that said the military is “aware of reports of civilian casualties following” the strike which the military was “still assessing.”
The statement continued: ” … we know [the strike] disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat to the airport. We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties. It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further.”
Now, there are serious questions being raised about the U.S. action.
The New York Times — an openly left-leaning publication that has slavishly supported the Biden administration — conducted an investigation into the drone strike and concluded that, rather than hitting a terrorist engaged in an attack, it had killed an innocent man. The Times also reported seven children had been killed. The Pentagon acknowledges only three civilian deaths, according to the Times.
The Times produced the video below based on what it said were over a dozen interviews with the victim’s family and co-workers and footage from security cameras at his place of business and elsewhere. The reporters “pieced together [his] movements in the hours before he was killed.”
According to the video, a 20-pound Hellfire missile struck a car in a densely populated residential neighborhood in Kabul and 10 people were killed. Among the dead were Zamarai Ahmadi, 43, three of his sons and one daughter.
The military believed that Ahmadi was a “facilitator for the Islamic State and that his car was packed with explosives.”
The Times learned he was actually a long-time aid worker. Ahmadi was an electrical engineer by training who worked for a California-based NGO that fights malnutrition around the world, according to the video.
The narrator said that “what was interpreted as the suspicious moves of a terrorist may have just been an average day in his life. And it’s possible that what the military saw Ahmadi loading into his car may have been water canisters he was bringing home to his family, not explosives.”
There has been a water shortage in his neighborhood, the Times was told.
The video shows Ahmadi distributing his NGO’s food to camps for displaced Afghans in the hours before he was killed.
Major Gen. William Taylor is shown briefing the press at the Pentagon. He tells reporters that the strike set off “significant secondary explosions from the targeted vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive materials.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley echoes Taylor’s remarks.
Yet, according to the Times, a senior military official told said it was only “possible-to-probable that explosives in the car caused another blast.”
The reporters also brought three explosives experts to the scene who all agreed the damage was consistent with a single explosion, followed by a fire, rather than secondary explosions.
“All of this matches what eyewitnesses told us,” the narrator said. “That a single missile exploded and triggered a large fire.”
“The next morning [Aug. 30], ISIS-K did launch rockets at the airport from a residential area Ahmadi had driven through the previous day. And the vehicle they used was a white Toyota.”
This is significant because Ahmadi also drove a white Toyota which was destroyed in the blast. Was this, perhaps, a case of mistaken identity?
Reporters also learned that, four days before his death, Ahmadi’s employer had submitted an application for Ahmadi and his family to receive refugee resettlement in the U.S.
Above all, the military wanted to prevent a second attack at the airport, which is perfectly understandable.
But, it also needs to provide information about why officers believed this man was a terrorist.
What intelligence had the military received about Ahmadi that compelled officers to order an airstrike in a crowded residential area where civilian casualties would be a near certainty?
Additionally, the question of whether there actually were secondary explosions needs to be addressed.
The White House, naturally, has remained silent on this incident, but the Biden administration needs to provide some answers.
If it is shown that the military had fired a missile without confirmation of the man’s identity — if the Times’ reporting is accurate — this could be major war crime territory.
And if the Times’ reporting is accurate, our apparent final military act in Afghanistan is going to be a prominent, tragic mistake.
Biden’s ineptitude in the withdrawal from Afghanistan has already stained our country’s image and standing on the world stage. Deadly action against innocent civilians, even if undertaken in error, would only make it worse.