On January 6, the New York Times offered new evidence of Pentagon efforts to cover up mistakes made in its August 29, 2021 drone killing of 10 members of an Afghan family, but a U.S. organization opposing drone warfare says there still is no official explanation of the intelligence failures that led to the attack.
“New York Times reporter Azmat Khan, and her newspaper, deserve praise for forcing the release of Pentagon documents about the drone attack that killed seven children and three adults in the Ahmadi family,” said Kathy Kelly, Co-coordinator of BanKillerDrones.org. “But, unfortunately these documents do not completely explain why ‘the intelligence community’ led military commanders to authorize the devastating attack against Zemari Ahmadi, an employee of a U.S. based non-profit providing food assistance to the Afghan people.”
The newly released Central Command documents describe those responsible for the attack as having been driven to prevent a second attack against U.S. forces in Afghanistan after an ISIS-K bombing killed 13 U.S. troops and as many as 170 Afghan civilians three days earlier.
At one point, the documents say that information justifying the Ahmadi attack included “signal intelligence”, but there is no discussion about what type or quality of the signals intelligence, nor is there identification in the document of specifically what entity was collecting and analyzing the intelligence. All references to responsibility for targeting Mr. Ahmadi for killing are only of a general nature
For example, a sworn August 31, 2021 statement, by a member of the U.S. Air Force who was in charge of “post-strike messaging” about drone attacks, stationed at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, says:
“On 29 August 2021, I witnessed a synchronized effort by the Intelligence Community, Targeteers, Joint Tactical Air Controllers, and all officers in the Joint Operations Center. Every movement and every update from the intelligence community was repeated out loud for everyone in the JOC to understand the current situation and what we had knowledge on.”
Major General Christopher T. Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, in charge of providing security at the Kabul airport, said in a September 7, 2021 statement that he “concurred” with advice to authorize the Ahmadi attack. “I was briefed by (redacted) team that they had high confidence the driver was part of an ISIS-K cell preparing to launch an attack on the airport.” He also said that at no time did he expect the attack would result in harm to civilians.
BanKillerDrones Co-coordinator Kelly also pointed out that even though there were two Air Force and one CIA drone involved in the August 29th attack, the drones’ video sensors were incapable of identifying civilians at the scene of the attack. The Pentagon document says
“trees and courtyard overhang limited visibility angles, and video quality obscured the identification of civilians in or near the courtyard prior to the strike.”
“The Ahmadi drone slaughter has been repeated over and over in drone attacks and provides ample evidence of why we need a global ban on weaponized drones,”
*Featured Image: Relatives and neighbors of the Ahmadi family gather around a burned-out vehicle that the family says was hit by a U.S. drone strike, killing 10 people.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)