Amnesty International has called the U.S. military's admission that an air strike in Kabul days before its military pullout killed 10 innocent civilians a “positive first step,” but said the United States must now commit to a “full, transparent, and impartial” investigation into the incident.
“This admission is an important step towards accountability for the killings in Kabul, but much more remains to be done,” Brian Castner, a senior crisis adviser with the London-based human rights watchdog, said on September 17, after a U.S. Central Command investigation found that an aid worker and nine members of his family died in the August 29 drone strike.
“Anyone suspected of criminal responsibility should be prosecuted in a fair trial,” Castner said, adding that survivors and families of the victims should be given “full reparation.”
The strike -- one of the U.S. military's final acts in Afghanistan before ending its 20-year operation in the country -- occurred some 3 kilometers from Kabul airport three days after a suicide attack outside Kabul airport killed more than 170 Afghan civilians and 13 American troops.
Describing the strike as a "tragic mistake," Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie said the attack killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children -- not extremists as the military said in its initial assessment.
U.S. intelligence believed the car that was hit was linked to Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-k) militants -- a local branch of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, McKenzie said.
McKenzie said the Pentagon was considering reparations for the relatives of the people killed.
“We apologize, and we will endeavor to learn from this horrible mistake,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
Austin said he had also ordered a review of the investigation by U.S. Central Command "to consider the degree to which the investigation considered all available context and information, the degree to which accountability measures need be taken and at what level, and the degree to which strike authorities, procedures, and processes need to be altered in the future."
Emal Ahmadi, whose 3-year-old daughter was killed in the air strike, said the U.S. military's apology is not enough and the family demands Washington punish the military personnel responsible after its investigation.
“The U.S.A. should find the person who did this," Ahmadi, a younger brother of the man whose car was targeted by the air strike, told AP on September 18.
The family is also seeking financial compensation for their losses and has demanded that several members of the family be relocated to a third country, but Ahmadi didn’t specify which one.
Members of the family were quoted previously as saying the man killed was a longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization. The family has said it was trying to gain visas to the United States because they feared for their lives under the Taliban.
The Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul on August 15, sparking a mass evacuation effort from the United States and its allies, with scenes of panic and chaos at Kabul airport as thousands of foreign nationals and Afghans tried to flee.
The security situation was further heightened after the August 26 deadly suicide bombing claimed by the IS-K. Many of those killed had been hoping to board evacuation flights leaving the Afghan capital.
More than 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans were flown out of the war-torn country by August 31, the deadline set by President Joe Biden for the U.S. withdrawal.