The Pentagon has released video footage of last year's botched drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, which killed 10 civilians, seven of them children. In two silent videos obtained by the New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, two drones observe a car backing into a walled courtyard on a residential street as individuals move around the area on Aug. 29. The military initially said the target was a suspected ISIS-K terrorist who was believed to have loaded explosives into a vehicle. They believed the individual posed an imminent threat to troops and civilians at the Kabul airport, where a suicide bombing had killed 182 people, including 13 US troops, three days earlier.
But Zemari Ahmadi was not a terrorist. He worked for California-based aid organization Nutrition and Education International, and is now thought to have loaded canisters of water into his white Toyota Corolla for his family. The Times suggests the military, which had intelligence that a terrorist would be driving a white Toyota Corolla, started tracking the wrong vehicle. Ahmadi had driven through an area from which the Islamic State would launch rockets at the airport—from a white Toyota—the following day. He'd retrieved water canisters and a laptop from the home of the NGO's director, though the military interpreted the building to be an Islamic State safehouse and the items to be bombs, per the Times.
The missile was fired soon after Ahmadi arrived home. Relatives have said he was greeted by children. But the overhead footage makes it difficult to determine the height of the figures inside the courtyard, per the Times. The video with the better angle into the courtyard is somewhat grainy and in black-and-white. The clearer color video doesn't clearly show the figures in the courtyard, though it does show children on the street outside. A Pentagon review did not uncover any misconduct or negligence. Its author noted a child who could be seen in the strike zone was not obvious to troops, nor observed.
"While the strike was intended for what was believed to be an imminent threat to our troops at Hamad Karzai International Airport, none of the family members killed are now believed to have been connected to ISIS-K or threats to our troops," says Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for US Central Command, per CNN. "We deeply regret the loss of life that resulted from this strike." Hina Shamsi, a lawyer representing the families of the victims and NEI, tells the Times that promised compensation from the US government has yet to come as the focus is instead on getting her clients out of Afghanistan. Ahmadi had applied to bring his family to the US. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)