Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US Kabul drone strike not law of war breach: probe

US Kabul drone strike not law of war breach: probe

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The scene of the US drone strike in Kabul on August 29 – which the Pentagon now admits mistakenly killed 10 people, including seven children, who were not a threat. AFP

US Kabul drone strike not law of war breach: probe

A US drone strike in Kabul in August that killed 10 Afghan civilians was a tragic mistake but did not violate any laws, a Pentagon inspector general said on November 3 after an investigation.

Three adults, including a man who worked for a US aid group, and seven children were killed in the August 29 operation, with the target believed to have been a home and a vehicle occupied by Islamic State (IS) militants.

“The investigation found no violation of law, including the Law of War. Execution errors combined with confirmation bias and communication breakdowns led to regrettable civilian casualties,” Lieutenant General Sami Said, the inspector general for the US Air Force, said in a report.

“It was an honest mistake,” Said told reporters at the Pentagon. “But it’s not criminal conduct, random conduct, negligence.”

Said said the people directly involved in the strike, which took place during the US-led evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans after the Taliban seized control of the country, genuinely believed “that they were targeting an imminent strike”.

“The intended target of the strike, the vehicle, its contents and occupant, were genuinely assessed at the time as an imminent threat to US forces and mission at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the report said.

However, it said, the interpretation of intelligence and the observations of a targeted car and its occupants over eight hours was “regrettably inaccurate”.

“What likely broke down was not the intelligence but the correlation of that intelligence to a specific house,” Said explained.

After a preliminary investigation, the Pentagon admitted on September 17 that it had been a “tragic mistake” and pledged to provide compensation to the surviving family members.

Said explained that there was not one point of failure or a person to be blamed for the error. He also said it was not in his responsibilities to decide whether someone should be punished for the error.

The US military had intelligence that IS militants were planning a fresh attack on the evacuation operations, three days after a suicide bomber at the airport left 13 US service members and scores of Afghans dead.

Intelligence had pointed them to a white Toyota Corolla. The car was thought to have contained explosives like those used in the previous attack.

But one mistake, Said admitted, was that they followed the wrong car. “We actually never ended up tracking the actual Toyota Corolla,” he said. “We just didn’t pick up the Toyota Corolla that we believe we should have picked up.”

He also said that the people involved in the operation thought the house at the site of the target was empty. “They were convinced that the compound didn’t have children in it. It turns out to be wrong.”

US officials believed that the earlier airport bomber used a computer bag to carry explosives. Because of that, when analysts planning the US strike saw people they were watching exchange a computer bag, they were more convinced they had the right target.


  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42