The CIA reportedly warned the US military of children in the area seconds before the US Kabul airstrike

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Kabul, Afghanistan
A US Black Hawk military helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, August 15, 2021. AP Photo/Rahmat Gul
  • The CIA issued a warning ahead of the US airstrike in Kabul, saying civilians were at risk of being targets, CNN reported.

  • Initially, US officials said the airstrike had targeted a suicide car bomber linked to ISIS-K.

  • Officials later reversed course when an investigation found that the airstrike had actually killed civilians.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The CIA sent urgent warnings that civilians were present just seconds before the US launched an airstrike in Afghanistan in retaliation for the Kabul airport bombing, CNN reported.

The warning, however, came too late.

Initially, US officials said the airstrike had targeted a suicide car bomber linked to ISIS-K and thwarted a potential attack on the Kabul airport.

"We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material," US Central Command spokesman US Navy Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement at the time.

"We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats," Urban continued.

The airstrike was meant to be a retaliatory attack on ISIS-K in response to the airport bombing, President Joe Biden indicated.

ISIS-K is the group believed to be responsible for a devastating Kabul airport attack a week prior to the US airstrike. At the airport, the ISIS-K attack left 13 US service members and an estimated 169 Afghans dead in the middle of tense evacuation efforts following the Taliban's takeover of the country.

Earlier this week, the US military revealed that an internal investigation found the US airstrike in retaliation for the Kabul airport bombing had actually killed innocent civilians.

"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," Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon.

"I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to 7 children, were tragically killed in that strike," he said.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who had previously characterized the drone strike as a "righteous strike," reversed course later. Following the results of the investigation, Milley said in a statement that the strike was a "horrible tragedy of war."

"It's heart wrenching and we are committed to being fully transparent about this incident," Milley added.

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