Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the U.S. Central Command testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during its hearing on the “U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2022 and the Future Years Defense Program in Washington on Thursday, April 22, 2021.
Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Friday that a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month killed as many as 10 civilians including up to seven children.
“This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake,” U.S. Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Friday.
“As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and its tragic outcome,” McKenzie, who oversees U.S. military operations in the region, adding, “This strike certainly did not come up to our standards and I profoundly regret it.”
The Pentagon originally said the strike, which was launched Aug. 29, killed two ISIS-K fighters believed to be involved in planning attacks against U.S. forces in Kabul.
Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said at the time of the strike that there were no known civilian casualties. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. did not notify nor coordinate with the Taliban ahead of the strike. He added that the Defense Department did not notify other countries in the region nor U.S. lawmakers.
The drone strike came on the heels of a suicide bomb attack by ISIS-K that resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans near Hamid Karzai International Airport where colossal evacuation efforts were underway.
Members of the UK Armed Forces continue to take part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan August 19-22, 2021, in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on August 23, 2021.
U.K. M.O.D. | via Reuters
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called the strike that resulted in civilian deaths a “horrible mistake.”
“To that end, I have directed a thorough review of the investigation just completed by U.S. Central Command. I have asked for this review to consider the degree to which the investigation considered all available context and information, the degree to which accountability measures need be taken and at what level, and the degree to which strike authorities, procedures and processes need to be altered in the future,” Austin wrote in a Friday statement.
In April, Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. He later gave an updated timeline saying the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will end by Aug. 31.
In the final weeks of the planned exodus of foreign forces from the country, the Taliban carried out a succession of shocking battlefield gains. On Aug. 15, the group captured the presidential palace in Kabul, triggering Western governments to accelerate evacuation efforts of at-risk Afghan nationals, diplomats and civilians.
Following the Taliban takeover, Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. service members from Afghanistan, but ordered the temporary deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to Kabul in order to help with evacuation efforts.
The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan ended on Aug. 31 after the evacuation of approximately 125,000 people out of the country. Of that total, about 6,000 were U.S. citizens and their families.
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