Eager to redeem himself amid the disastrous collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban last month, President Joe Biden vowed to hunt down those responsible for the deaths of 13 American service members, and it was not long before the Defense Department claimed to have eliminated an imminent ISIS-K threat in Kabul by conducting a targeted drone strike.
However, in the days since, reporting from the New York Times has suggested that instead of taking out a nefarious terrorist actor bent on inflicting further losses, the U.S. military in fact killed an innocent aid worker and numerous other civilians, including several children, a scenario, which if true, could arguably constitute a war crime.
The accounts collected by the Times paint a dramatically different picture than the one offered by U.S. Central Command immediately after the drone strike, in which Navy Capt. Bill Urban declared 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.
Urban’s statement also asserted, “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.”
However, according to the Times, what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley referred to as a “righteous strike,” in fact resulted in the death of a man who had no connections to ISIS-K, but who was actually a long-time aid worker affiliated with a California-based organization dedicated to combating malnutrition across the globe.
The Times‘ reporting added that “what was interpreted as the suspicious moves of a terrorist may have just been an average day” in the man’s life and what the military believed to be explosives being loaded into his car may have in fact been water canisters he was hauling home to his own family in the midst of a neighborhood water shortage.
Though the Biden administration ultimately acknowledged that three civilians perished in the drone strike, the Times claimed that 10 individuals – including seven children – lost their lives when they emerged to greet the erroneously identified target, 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi.
The catalogue of disgraceful actions surrounding the Biden administration’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan seems to grow longer by the day, but the shame of what increasingly appears to be an unconscionable miscalculation is something for which the president and his advisors must answer.
If, in a craven attempt to claim some sort of retribution for the terror attack that left American service members dead and injured, the military launched a drone attack before properly confirming the identity of the target, a war crime may well have been committed, and a full investigation is undoubtedly warranted.