The scramble to distance people and organizations from the “tragic mistake” of the Kabul missile strike on an Afghan aid worker is ongoing.
Three anonymous sources told CNN that the CIA had issued an “urgent warning” that civilians, including children, were present in the compound mere seconds after a Hellfire Missile was launched from a Reaper drone circling overhead.
The military believed that Afghan aid worker Zemerai Ahmadi was an ISIS-K operative and that his white Toyota Corolla was packed with explosives and presented an imminent threat to U.S. troops leading the evacuation at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Later, it was learned that Ahmadi was a 14-year employee of Nutrition and Education International, a U.S. NGO that fights malnutrition.
It is unclear if the agency was aware of the incorrect intelligence or if it had just learned that there were civilians present at the compound. It is possible that the military ignored the CIA’s warnings. Regardless, it was too late.
The missile had already been launched and was just seconds from striking the vehicle inside the compound. Due to the compound being enclosed the Hellfire missile caused more severe. A total of 10 people, including seven children, were killed in the blast.
According to the information released by the Pentagon on Friday, when General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) admitted that the missile strike was a mistake, the U.S. had multiple drones surveilling the targeted Toyota. It was reported that as many as six Reaper drones were following Ahmadi for eight hours during the operation.
The number of drones overhead would indicate that not just the military but the intelligence communities were also involved. Frequently, the two entities will cooperate with one another, with the intelligence community surveilling a target location, that they will share with military officials prior to conducting a strike. With six drones overhead, the military members had plenty of eyes on the target and the area.
This issue highlights the problems that will no doubt be present in the future with the Biden administration’s “over the horizon” counterterrorism approach. With no troops or CIA paramilitary forces on the ground, the possibility of killing civilians or misidentifying targets increases exponentially.
It is of no surprise that the CIA is distancing itself from the drone strike. While the military (CENTCOM) had the final say over whether to conduct the strike and General McKenzie has accepted responsibility it is unlikely that there will be any actual fallout.
As President Kennedy said to Sander Vanocor after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.”
Following the botched evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul, the death of 13 American servicemembers, and now this drone strike that went horribly awry, the White House will try to shift attention away from Afghanistan.
The administration will now talk about a new COVID-19 threat and a host of other issues. Someone will be left holding the bag, and some junior officer will have the boom lowered on him while the senior leadership runs for cover and is left untouched.