An independent Defense Department review determined that no misconduct or negligence was involved in the U.S. military drone strike that killed 10 innocent Afghan civilians during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Inspector General of the Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said revealed during a press conference on Wednesday.
Said’s report concluded that while there were breakdowns in communication and in identifying the target, the deadly mistake occurred despite precautions in place to prevent civilian casualties. He added that no disciplinary action was recommended in the report.
The report argued that the deadly strike should be taken into context, particularly considering United States forces were under stress and being bombarded with intelligence regarding threats to both troops and civilians at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
Said believed improved communication over the strike could have prompted doubts about the attack, but may not have stopped it from taking place.
On Aug. 29, the U.S. bombed a white Toyota Corolla sedan in Kabul after it was believed to be associated with a terrorist attack bomb plot. Instead, the strike killed Zemerai Ahmadi, 37, and nine family members, including seven children. Ahmadi was an aid worker helping an American humanitarian organization.
Said determined that the military sincerely believed, after hours of surveillance, that the Toyota posed a direct threat and needed to be stopped before getting to the airport.
Officials determined Said was able to conduct an independent review of the matter because he is inspector general of the Air Force and had no direct connection to operations in Afghanistan.
The review has been endorsed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and included multiple recommendations that have been sent to top military officials at U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.
Among the recommendations was a call for officials to better address “confirmation bias,” the concept that American troops conducting the strike decided too quickly when they believed they were seeing behavior that appeared to align with intelligence.
The report also advised that military leaders have personnel present with the strike team that are specifically dedicated to questioning potential confirmation bias.
The Associated Press reported that the United States is currently making moves to pay the impacted family financial reparations, as well as potentially evacuate them from Afghanistan.
Said’s report had similar results as a review conducted by General McKenzie in the weeks following the attack, which found that U.S. forces were monitoring the car for roughly eight hours before the strike and had an “earnest belief” based on “reasonable certainty” that the car was an imminent threat.