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Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

  • But an investigation by U.S. Central Command found that the strike killed an aid worker along with nine members of his family.
  • Zemari Ahmadi worked for an NGO in Kabul that helped distribute food to Afghans, CBS News reports.
  • The explosives that the military claimed were sitting in Ahmadi's car trunk were most likely water bottles, an official familiar with the investigation told the New York Times.
    • A secondary explosion in the courtyard where the attack occurred was likely a propane or gas threat — not explosives, as U.S. intelligence also believed.
  • Ahmadi's "only connection to the terrorist group appeared to be a fleeting and innocuous interaction with people in what the military believed was an ISIS safehouse in Kabul, an initial link that led military analysts to make one mistaken judgment after another while tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements in a sedan for the next eight hours," the Times writes.

What they're saying: "I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed," Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, said at a briefing Friday.

  • "This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology," McKenzie said. "I am fully responsible."
  • McKenzie issued a separate statement on Friday delineating that commanders on the ground had "appropriate authority" and "reasonable certainty that the target was valid."
  • "[B]ut after deeper post-strike analysis, our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed. This is a horrible tragedy of war and it’s heart-wrenching and we are committed to being fully transparent about this incident."

Anyone suspected of criminal responsibility should face prosecution, said Brian Castner, Amnesty International's senior crisis adviser.

  • "It should be noted that the US military was only forced to admit to its failure in this strike because of the current global scrutiny on Afghanistan," said Castner, a former Air Force bomb technician, in a statement.
  • "Many similar strikes in Syria, Iraq, and Somalia have happened out of the spotlight, and the US continues to deny responsibility while devastated families suffer in silence."

Go deeper

Updated Oct 16, 2021 - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (R) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.