CIA warned civilians were present seconds before US missile killed 10

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it was too late. The warning came on August 29, seconds before the missile hit the car, killing 10 civilians, including seven children.

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In the weeks that followed, the military insisted that it was a justified attack on a certain terrorist target, acknowledging that some civilians may have been killed. But on Friday, after weeks of media coverage casting doubt on the strike’s legitimacy, the military admitted that no one in the car was affiliated with ISIS-K, as was originally believed. “It was a mistake,” General Frank McKenzie, the top general at US Central Command, said bluntly at the Pentagon.

It is not clear whether the military had informed the intelligence community that it had decided to pull the trigger – if for no other reason the situation was developing rapidly. The military calls such attacks, which commanders in the field were authorized to take “dynamic” without consulting the chain of command.


In some cases, the military may ask the intelligence community to “task” its surveillance drones and other assets to see a particular car or a particular location. The intelligence community will share data on targets with the Department of Defense in real time, but it is ultimately the decision of the military ground force commander to strike.

Some sources say the miscommunication highlights a now pressing decision for the Biden administration as it weighs in on how to conduct future ground attacks in Afghanistan without US troops: Will the Defense Department or the CIA own the mission?

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The CIA declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for US Central Command did not respond to Granthshala’s request for comment.

two institutes

Terrorism, intelligence and military officials agree unanimously: without US troops on the ground, it has been infinitely difficult to identify the right targets and launch successful strikes on legitimate ISIS-K or al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan. Some current and former officials say that trying to split the mission between the two organizations runs the risk that serious tragedies will occur more frequently in Kabul.

“If they assigned the agency to look at the target for an indication of the ‘go’ or ‘no go’ criteria, they should have the ability to obtain that information and influence the launch of the strike. There was no way they were about to launch, said Mick Mulroy, a former CIA official and Pentagon official. “There’s really something wrong there.” Mulroy cautioned that he had no direct knowledge.

But while lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have resolved to get to the bottom of what went wrong in the lead-up to this specific strike, current and former officials also pointed out that civilian casualties were a consistent reality of the US mission in Afghanistan. .

“It’s a very good encapsulation of the entire 20 Years’ War,” a US official said, referring to the August 29 strike.

The intelligence community and the Defense Department have worked together for years to carry out counter-terrorism attacks in Afghanistan – part of a longstanding push to put the authority of drone strikes under military command on the principle that civilians There will be more accountability and transparency around deaths. But the flow of information and decision-making between two organizations sometimes affects the air gap between institutions, and in any event, the CIA and the Department of Defense operate under different standards to carry out attacks of this nature. Huh.

Some former intelligence officials take it a step further, claiming that CIA drone strikes kill very few military civilians – but the agency’s figures are not public, and outside groups that track drone attack casualties, The US military says it routinely understates its collateral deaths, making accurate comparisons difficult.

The Biden administration insists it has the tools to succeed the mission “above the horizon.” McKenzie argued on Friday that the failure of the August 29 strike was not anticipating the challenges “above the horizon”.

“It was a self-defense attack based on an imminent threat to attack us,” McKenzie said. “It’s not the way we’d strike in an (above the horizon) mission”—because the standards for conducting such a strike would be high, he said, and “we’ll probably have more opportunities than we have.” It was peak time pressure to take a look at the target.”

But sources tell Granthshala that the Biden administration is still grappling with how it will structure a counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan going forward. Some intelligence officials personally despise “above the horizon” as “above the rainbow” in Afghanistan.

strike build

For eight hours on 29 August, intelligence officers tracked the movements of Jemari Ahmadi, a longtime activist for a US aid group, based on a weak relationship with ISIS-K: Ahmadi had a short conversation with people. of which the military believed was ISIS. safe house.

That weak clue led military commanders to misinterpret Ahmadi’s movements during a relatively normal day. They saw him filling pots of water in the back of the car to bring him home and believed they were explosives. Military commanders insisted that the Corolla had a major secondary explosion after the Hellfire hit – indicating that senior leaders believed the explosive in the trunk – was actually a propane located behind the parked car. There was a tank.

The military commanders did not know Ahmadi’s identity when they began tracking his movements.

“We now know that there was no link between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the impending threat, and that Mr. Ahmadi was absolutely innocent. One Others were tragically killed as victims,” ​​Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

In the weeks since the strike, senior military leaders have publicly and privately defended the strike and the intelligence on which it was based. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told reporters the strike was “right”. The Pentagon insisted that there was a large, secondary explosion that could only have been caused by explosives in the trunk of the car, and that the secondary explosion was the cause of the high civilian casualty rate.

In the end, almost everything he said turned out to be a lie.

McKenzie on Friday dismissed the notion that the mission was a “complete and utter failure”.

“This particular strike was certainly a terrible mistake and we are certainly sorry, and I am very clear that we take full responsibility for it. At the same time, we are doing a number of complex operations designed to protect ourselves. were.” McKenzie said. “So as long as I agree… this strike is definitely not up to our standards… I will not qualify the entire operation in those terms.”


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