Air Force inspector general to review CENTCOM investigation of Kabul drone strike that killed 10 civilians

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Relatives and neighbors of the Ahmadi family gathered around the incinerated husk of a vehicle that the family says was hit by a U.S. drone strike, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Caitlin Doornbos

Stars and Stripes

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a senior Air Force general be assigned to review the U.S. Central Command investigation into the drone strike that killed 10 civilians in Kabul, chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

Lt. Gen. Sami Said, the Air Force inspector general, has been assigned to conduct the review to assess the investigation that determined the Aug. 29 strike killed a local worker for a U.S.-based aid company and up to 10 nearby civilians, including seven children. U.S. military leaders had earlier claimed the strike killed an Islamic State fighter.

“Part of that review will be to examine the investigation itself — the thoroughness of the investigation — to study the degree to which any policies, procedures, or targeting mechanisms may need to be altered going forward, if any,” Kirby said.

The review will also determine “what levels of accountability might be appropriate” for the strike, “and if so, at what level,” he said.

Austin on Friday ordered the review be completed by a three-star general or higher and should last no longer than 45 days after one is appointed, Kirby said. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall selected Said to conduct the review.

The strike was the last known U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan before the last American troops left Kabul just before midnight Aug. 31. Defense officials originally said it had disrupted an imminent suicide attack against Hamid Karzai International Airport, where 13 U.S. service members were killed in an ISIS attack three days earlier as they helped evacuate Americans and their allies from the country after the Taliban takeover Aug. 15.

On Friday, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of CENTCOM, called the Reaper drone strike “a tragic mistake.”

“I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who are killed,” McKenzie said Friday. “This strike was taken in earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake. And I offer my sincere apology. As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike in this tragic outcome.”

Kirby said Monday that Austin “would absolutely support [it] if the family wanted to leave Afghanistan and come to the United States” after they were outed as having a family member who worked for the U.S. government. However, he had no information about whether efforts to evacuate the family are underway.

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