The final known U.S. missile strike of the 20-year war in Afghanistan may not have hit a vehicle ready to carry out an ISIS-K attack as evacuations from Kabul neared an end, despite what officials in the Biden administration have said, according to the newly released findings of a media investigation.
Interviews and video collected by the New York Times indicate a Reaper drone attack on a white sedan on Aug. 29, which the military said was believed to have been carrying explosives and posed an "imminent" threat to the airport, killed an aid worker who had no clear ties to the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for the deadly attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and scores of others earlier that week. The strike also killed several of the man's family members.
Camera footage shows the driver filled plastic containers with a water hose in his car's trunk. The driver, identified as Zemari Ahmadi, worked as an electrical engineer for Nutrition and Education International, a U.S. aid company headquartered in California.
"We have nothing to do with terrorism or ISIS,” said NEA's country director, who professed a love for the United States.
According to his relatives, Ahmadi was driving a white 1996 Corolla the same day U.S. officials said military surveillance detected a white sedan leaving a compound identified as an alleged ISIS safe house a few miles from the Kabul airport.
While U.S. officials told the outlet they picked up suspicious communications between the vehicle and the alleged ISIS safe house, Ahmadi's colleagues told the news outlet he was driving co-workers who were delivering food and picking up a laptop for his boss. His co-workers said Ahmadi was bringing water home from his office after deliveries stopped when the U.S.-backed government fell to the Taliban.
Ahmadi drove home with three passengers to drop them off.
“He liked happy music,” one colleague said. “That day, we couldn’t play any in the car" for fear of attracting unwanted attention from the Taliban. The passengers said only two laptops and the water jugs were in the car, denying there were any explosives in the car.
A Hellfire missile was launched in the late afternoon after Ahmadi arrived home.
In this Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021 file photo, Afghans inspect damage of Ahmadi family house after U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi, File)
Although U.S. officials said one other adult male was seen by the drone operator greeting Ahmadi as he drove into the courtyard — and determined with “reasonable certainty” that no women, children, or non-combatants would be killed — his relatives said several of his children and his brother's children were running out to meet him.
So far, the U.S. military has acknowledged only three civilian casualties. Ahmadi's relatives said 10 members of their family, including seven children, were killed in the strike.
Neighbors and health officials said the bodies of the children were removed from the area, according to the report, and a reporter saw other human remains strewn around the place the next day.
“All of them were innocent,” said Emal, Ahmadi's brother. “You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans."
Up until this point, U.S. military officials have defended the drone strike.
“Because there were secondary explosions, there is a reasonable conclusion to be made that there was explosives in that vehicle,” said Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week.
But the report casts doubt on that assertion, noting an investigation by the news outlet's team found no evidence of a second and more powerful explosion.
Drone strikes remain a controversial aspect of modern warfare, partly due to the number of civilians killed.
An estimated 4,126 to 10,076 people have been killed in Afghanistan by drone strikes ordered by the U.S. since January 2004, including anywhere from 300 to 909 civilians, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
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Original Author: Misty Severi