Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a senior-level review of the investigation that found that 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, were killed in an Aug. 29 U.S. drone strike in Kabul. The Pentagon initially reported that the drone strike had killed an Islamic State fighter. The reviewer is to consider whether any military disciplinary action is warranted.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that Austin had instructed the Air Force to appoint an officer at three or four-star rank to review the Central Command investigation. The main findings of the investigation, which examined in detail the sequence of events leading up to the strike, were that only Afghan civilians were killed and that the U.S. military had been mistaken in its belief that the white Toyota Corolla that was struck with a Hellfire missile was a valid threat.
Discrepancies were discovered between the military's initial claims about the strike and findings on the ground.
Reports emerged about the driver of the vehicle targeted being a longtime employee of a U.S. humanitarian organization. There was no evidence of a secondary explosion, even though the Pentagon reported that the vehicle contained explosives.
The head of Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, announced Friday that his investigation determined that the vehicle targeted by the drone had initially been seen at a known Islamic State compound in Kabul and was tracked by U.S. intelligence for eight hours. McKenzie said the intelligence about the vehicle turned out to be tragically mistaken.
The military initially reported that at least one Islamic State fighter had been killed in the vehicle, but McKenzie's investigation found that only innocent civilians were killed. McKenzie accepted the blame for the mistake and apologized.
"This particular strike certainly was a terrible mistake and we certainly regret that, and I've been very clear that we take full responsibility for it," McKenzie said during a press conference.
Austin alluded to a request for a review on Friday, saying in a written statement that he wanted to be sure that Central Command had considered "all available context and information" about the mistaken attack and that accountability be fully considered.
Kirby said the Air Force review will look at the thoroughness of Central Command's investigation and make recommendations about whether anyone involved should be held accountable.
"If there is accountability to be held, the decisions about who and what would be done would be a separate consideration," Kirby said.
The review is to be completed within 45 days of the appointment of a reviewing officer, according to Kirby.