An independent Pentagon review has concluded that the US drone strike which killed innocent Kabul civilians was not caused by misconduct or negligence – and it does not recommend any disciplinary action, according to reports.
The review, carried out by Air Force Lt Gen Sami Said, found there were some breakdowns in communications and in the process of identifying and confirming the target of the bombing, according to a senior defence official.
But, Lt Gen Said concluded that the mistaken strike happened despite prudent measures to prevent civilian deaths.
Lt Gen Said’s review said the drone strike must be considered in the context of the moment, as US forces under stress were being flooded by information about threats to troops and civilians at the Kabul airport, just days after a deadly suicide bombing.
Thousands of Afghans were swarming the airport, trying to get out of the country following the Taliban takeover.
According to reports, Lt Gen Said found that better communication between those making the strike decision and other support personnel might have raised more doubts about the bombing, but in the end may not have prevented it.
Lt Gen Said was asked to investigate the August 29 drone strike on a white Toyota Corolla, which killed Zemerai Ahmadi and nine family members, including seven children.
Mr Ahmadi, 37, was a long-time employee of an American humanitarian organisation.
The intelligence about the car and its potential threat came just days after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 US troops and 169 Afghans at a Kabul airport gate.
The US was working to evacuate thousands of Americans, Afghans and other allies in the wake of the collapse of the country’s government.
Lt Gen Said concluded that US forces genuinely believed that the car they were following was an imminent threat and that they needed to strike it before it got closer to the airport.
The report, which has been endorsed by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, made several recommendations that have been passed on to commanders at US Central Command and US Special Operations Command.
The official said the review recommends that more be done to prevent what military officials call “confirmation bias” — the idea that troops making the strike decision were too quick to conclude that what they were seeing aligned with the intelligence and confirmed their conclusion to bomb what turned out to be the wrong car.
The review recommends that the military have personnel present with a strike team whose job it is to actively question such conclusions.
The report says using a so-called “red-team” in such self-defence strikes that are being done quickly might help avoid errors.
Lt Gen Said also recommended that the military improve its procedures to ensure that children and other innocent civilians are not present before launching a time-sensitive strike.
For days after the strike, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, despite mounting reports that multiple civilians and children had died and growing doubts that the car contained explosives.
Lt Gen Said’s review concluded that officials made their initial assessments too quickly and did not do enough analysis.