Biden feels heat over botched air strike

The US President is in hot water after new footage suggested a Kabul drone strike – meant to attack Islamic State members – instead killed an aid worker.

A US air strike in Kabul against a supposed Islamic State bomber actually killed an innocent man who worked for a US aid group and his family, according to newly published testimony and footage – raising speculation the Pentagon lied to the public about the strike.

The reported case of mistaken identity further tars US President Joe Biden for his chaotic pullout of US troops from Afghanistan, which left behind hundreds of US citizens and thousands of at-risk Afghans, reports the New York Post.

Zemari Ahmadi and nine members of his family, including seven children, were killed in the air strike on August 29, one day before the final US evacuation flights from Kabul, his brother Romal Ahmadi told The New York Times.

Ahmadi, who was the apparent target of the strike, worked for 14 years as a technical engineer in Afghanistan for the Californian-based charity group Nutrition and Education International, which feeds hungry Afghans.

The aid group had applied for him to move to the US as a refugee.

New security footage from his workplace shows Mr Ahmadi, whose neighbourhood had unreliable water service, filling containers with water at his employer’s office at 2.35pm shortly before he returned home. Fire-damaged containers consistent with the water canisters were photographed by The Times.

He and colleagues, who had driven to work, also were carrying laptop computers that day, according to security footage, possibly explaining the military’s claim that the targeted Toyota Corolla contained carefully wrapped packages.

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The Times disputed the Pentagon’s claim that secondary explosions demonstrated that explosive materials were ignited by the US Reaper drone’s Hellfire missile.

The ageing walls near Ahmadi’s car were not toppled by the air strike or by any subsequent explosions.

Three weapons experts told The Times there was no evidence of a secondary explosion because there were no blown out walls or destroyed vegetation near the burnt-out car. A small crater under car was consistent with a Hellfire missile, the experts said.

The Pentagon initially presented the air strike as a successful mission to prevent another bombing of Kabul Airport after 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghans died in a suspected Islamic State suicide attack on August 26.

“The procedures were correctly followed and it was a righteous strike,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said afterwards.

Captain Bill Urban, spokesman for the US Central Command, said: “US military forces conducted a self-defence … air strike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International 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.”

The military had been given broad leeway to attack suspected terrorists without presidential approval after the airport bombing, despite consistent reports of civilian casualties linked to US air strikes in Afghanistan.

One day after the airport attack, the US military said that on August 27 it killed two suspected members of the Islamic State group in eastern Afghanistan via drone strike – though the Biden administration has refused to reveal their names.

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Two days later, the US drone killed Mr Ahmadi in Kabul.

Mr Biden spoke approvingly of US strikes in Afghanistan on August 31 in a speech marking the end of the nearly 20-year US intervention.

“We struck ISIS-K remotely, days after they murdered 13 of our service members and dozens of innocent Afghans. And to ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet,” Mr Biden said.

The Times reports that drone operators weren’t surveilling Mr Ahmadi’s home before the air strike, but had followed what they believed to be his vehicle during the day. The paper noted that not long after the strike, ISIS militants used a white Toyota Corolla – the same model as Mr Ahmadi’s car – to launch missiles at Kabul Airport.

The White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said: “US Central Command continues to assess the results of the air strike in Kabul on August 29. We won’t get ahead of that assessment.

“However, as we have said, no other military works harder than we do to prevent civilian casualties.

“Additionally, as Chairman Milley said, the strike was based on good intelligence, and we still believe that it prevented an imminent threat to the airport and to our men and women that were still serving at the airport.”

This first appeared on the New York Post and is reproduced here with permission

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