2021-09-18 23:30:41 U.S. Calls Drone Strike a ‘Tragic Mistake’

U.S. Calls Drone Strike a ‘Tragic Mistake’

KABUL, AFRICAN REPUBLIC — The Pentagon’s admission that it made a “tragic mistake” in killing an Afghan aid worker and seven children from his extended family in a drone strike added to the long, grievous list of U.S. military mistakes in Afghanistan.

However, it devastated the Afghan family, and for the coworkers of the targeted man, Zemari Ahmadi, the American apology did nothing to alleviate their sense of vulnerability in the new Taliban order. Their fears and feelings of vulnerability have only grown.

Emal Ahmadi, Zemari Ahmadi’s brother, described his family as having been tarnished twice: first by the United States’ suspicion that they were linked to the Islamic State in Khorasan, a branch of ISIS active in Afghanistan and an enemy of the Taliban.

Second, it has now been revealed that his brother worked for an American aid organization, which was not widely known prior to the drone strike.

“Now that everyone knows he was working for the Americans, there is a big threat against us,” Emal Ahmadi said. “But we had no choice but to tell the media so that the rest of the world would believe” that the family had no ties to the Islamic State, he said.

The Pentagon launched the strike from a Reaper drone on August 29, just 48 hours before the last American soldier left Afghanistan. Prior to the attack, the US military was tracking a vehicle thought to be linked to the Islamic State and whose driver was preparing a bomb.

In fact, the car belonged to Mr. Ahmadi, an aid worker who was on his way to work for a food bank in Pasadena, California. When he got home, the missile hit, killing ten people, seven of whom were children.

The fact that the Americans linked this target to ISIS posed a serious risk to family members and close associates because the Taliban considers the Islamic State to be mortal enemies and has been competing with them for fighters and influence in Afghanistan for the past three years. As a result, the Ahmadi family was eager to dispel any notion that they were associated with the extremist group.

While the United States is no longer regarded as a battlefield adversary of the Taliban in the same way that it was before the militants effectively took over the Afghan government on August 15, the Taliban still hold any American nonprofit organizations operating in the country in high regard.

In an effort to clear the family name of ISIS ties, it was revealed that Mr. Ahmadi’s employer, Nutrition and Education International, or NEI, was preparing paperwork to allow him to emigrate to the United States with his family.

The Pentagon’s admission of error, which came after the Pentagon insisted for more than two weeks that the attack was justified, was broadcast on Afghan television on Saturday. Afghan news channels showed images of the Ahmadi home as his surviving family members showed reporters photos of the children they had lost in the blast, including a 2-year-old girl.

The Pentagon conducted a more thorough investigation into the strike after a New York Times investigation cast doubt on Mr. Ahmadi’s connection to ISIS and the presence of explosives in his vehicle. The military concluded that the deadly strike was the result of a series of errors.

“We now know that there was no link between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities on that day were completely harmless and had nothing to do with the imminent threat we thought we faced, and that Mr. Ahmadi was just as innocent a victim as the others tragically killed,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement.

The ISIS taint still lingers for one of Mr. Zemari’s colleagues, the country director for NEI.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of US Central Command, said at a news conference on Friday about the incident that Mr. Ahmadi’s car came under surveillance after it was seen picking up a bag at a suspected ISIS safe house labeled “Compound No. 1.”

“In the 40 hours preceding the strike, sensitive intelligence indicated that ISIS-K planners were using Compound No. 1 on the map to facilitate future attacks,” General McKenzie said. “We have very good intelligence to back up our suspicion that this was an ISIS-K-related facility.”

However, witness testimony and visual evidence gathered by The Times indicate that this compound was most likely Mr. Ahmadi’s boss, NEI’s country director. Mr. Ahmadi had been asked by the director to stop by his house on his way to work that morning to pick up his laptop.

On Saturday, the director, who previously told The Times that he had no ties to ISIS, gave a tour of his home to his young children and elderly parents, the second such visit by a Times reporter since the attack. On a white board inside the house, children’s English lessons were visible.

“This house was built by my father. “I grew up here,” said the country director. “Having the label of ISIS makes me feel threatened, afraid, insulted, and humiliated.”

The Times is not publishing his name or the address of the country director who is seeking to be resettled in the United States for security reasons.

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U.S. Calls Drone Strike a 'Tragic Mistake'