The Pentagon has declassified video evidence of a US drone attack in Kabul which killed ten civilians in the closing hours of America’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years. The New York Times filed a lawsuit against US Central Command through the Freedom of Information Act. Successfully obtaining the tape they then uploaded it on their website. It is the first public release of video footage from the August 29 hit, which the Pentagon originally justified as a regrettable error. The 25 minute footage from two MQ-9 Reaper drones shows the aftermath of a missile hit on a civilian car on a residential street. Individuals in and around the assault zone are also visible.
Last year, a Pentagon inquiry concluded that the Kabul attack was an “honest error” and recommended no disciplinary punishment, causing a significant outcry in Congress and among human rights organisations. According to critics, the inquiry failed to address the fundamental debate on drone warfare and resulting civilian fatalities, contributing to a culture of impunity.
It also neglected the death of Zemari Ahmadi, and nine members of his family who were among those killed in the attack on August 29. Seven of his family members were children. He also worked for a US-based relief organisation. Despite the fact that the US air force inspector general, Lt Gen Sami Said discovered that the drone operators mistook a white Toyota Corolla for a terrorist car and failed to detect a child visible in the surveillance video, he claimed that there was no proof of wrongdoing. About two and a half minutes before the explosion, footage from one of the drones showed two figures inside the courtyard as the car backed in.
“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,” the report said.“It was an honest mistake,” Sami Said told reporters at the Pentagon. “But it’s not criminal conduct, random conduct, negligence”. A suicide explosion at the airport three days earlier killed 13 US personnel and more than 160 Afghans. When Central Command eventually admitted its mistake for the August 29 drone strike, it stated that the individual driving the car had no connection with IS.