On August 29, military sources claimed that a U.S. drone had taken out an ISIS suicide bomber en route to the Kabul airport:
American forces launched a drone strike in Kabul on Sunday that killed a suicide car bomber suspected of preparing to attack the airport, U.S. officials said, as the United States nears the end of its military presence in the Afghan capital.
“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,” [U.S. Central Command] said.
From the beginning, however, there were reports of civilian casualties and doubts cast on the claim of secondary explosions. Today the Pentagon admitted that the whole thing was a mistake:
The Pentagon admitted Friday that a drone strike that killed multiple civilians in Afghanistan last month killed only civilians and not an Islamic State extremist as it first reported.
“The strike was a tragic mistake,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told a Pentagon news conference.
For days after the Aug. 29 strike, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, despite numerous civilians being killed, including children. News organizations later raised doubts about that version of events, reporting that the driver of the targeted vehicle was a longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization and citing an absence of evidence to support the Pentagon’s assertion that the vehicle contained explosives.
Joe Biden isn’t responsible for targeting drone strikes, but this was one of a long series of blunders that characterized our withdrawal from Afghanistan. The drone strike grew largely out of concern that another suicide bomber, following the one that killed 13 American service members, would strike the Kabul airport. If the withdrawal had been properly planned and executed, these multiple fiascoes probably could have been avoided.
In any event, today’s admission puts a tragic coda–for now, anyway–on the sad events in Afghanistan.