US defends strike that Afghan family says killed innocents

Sep 2, 2021, 2:18 PM | Updated: Sep 3, 2021, 5:13 am
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021 file photo, Afghans inspect damage of Ahmadi family house afte...

FILE - 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. Ahmadi says Sunday's U.S. drone strike killed 10 members of his family, six of them children. Senior U.S. military officials said the drone strike hit an Islamic State target and disrupted the extremist' ability to further disrupt the final phase of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi, File)

(AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi, File)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — It felt like hell itself had opened up, said Ramal Ahmadi, who was watching cartoons with his nephew when a U.S. drone slammed into his family’s courtyard where just moments before there had been a noisy celebration to greet the family’s oldest brother.

The last thing Ahmadi remembers was the sound of his brother’s car horn announcing his arrival and the squealing of the children. He says his mind “is not right” since that day.

Sunday’s U.S. drone strike killed 10 members of his family, six of them children, Ahmadi said.

Senior U.S. military officials said the drone strike hit an Islamic State target and weakened the extremists’ ability to further disrupt the final phase of the U.S. withdrawal and evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan. Three days before the drone strike, an IS suicide bomber had attacked a crowded gate at Kabul airport, killing 13 U.S. service members and 169 Afghans.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that at least one of those killed in the drone strike was an Islamic State “facilitator.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged the reports of civilian casualties on Thursday and said they were being investigated. Previously, American officials have noted that subsequent explosions resulted from the destruction of the vehicle and may have caused additional casualties.

But an enraged Ahmadi family is demanding proof — and disputes that the car was carrying explosives.

“They have to give us answers. Is our blood so worthless, we don’t even get an explanation?” Ahmadi asked.

Analysts warned that the risk of civilian casualties during drone strikes will only grow, now that the U.S. no longer has on-the-ground intelligence.

Inside the courtyard of the family home, Emal, another Ahmadi brother, recently picked through the twisted ruins of the devastated hulk of the Toyota Corolla. Inside was a blood-soaked child’s shirt.

He said some family members, including children, were in the car when it was hit. He contended that if there had been a bomb in the vehicle there would be far more damage to the courtyard and house. He pointed to two undamaged gas cylinders tucked away in a corner of the courtyard.

“If the car was filled with explosives like the Americans say, why didn’t these cylinders explode,” asked Emal. He also pointed to a shoddily constructed brick wall nearby the gutted car. “How could the wall still be standing if this car had been full of explosives?”

But American officials, including some who watched the strike in real-time on video feeds, said the U.S. had been watching the car for several hours and saw people loading explosives into the trunk.

The compound in Kabul’s Khoja Boghra neighborhood was home to four Ahmadi brothers and their families — 25 people in all. The roads that weave through the middle-class neighborhood pass homes hidden behind high walls and gates.

For the Ahmadis, the accusation that their family was involved with the Islamic State group is a devastating one.

“If you have proof I say ‘go ahead kill me’ but show me the proof,” said Emal, whose 3-year old daughter Malika was among the dead.

Their oldest brother, Zamarai, and a nephew Nasir Haideri — both of whom were killed in the strike — had worked for U.S. government-allied firms and had applied for special immigrant visas granted to Afghans with such ties to the U.S. They were being processed at the time of the strike.

Emal said 30-year-old Nasir, who was to have been married just days after the strike, had dreamed of going to America.

The surviving brothers showed the commendation letters the relatives had included in their submissions for the visas.

Emal, who has also applied for one of the visas, said he struggled to understand why the family compound was struck. “They have such high technology they can see an ant on the ground, but they couldn’t see a yard full of children?” he asked.

Milley said Sunday’s strike was based on good intelligence, including a review of video. “We monitored that through various means and all of the engagement criteria were being met,” he said. “We went through the same level of rigor that we’ve done for years and we took a strike.”

Psaki pushed back against the idea that a lack of solid on-the-ground intelligence is hampering the United States. She said that there are many countries where the U.S. has no military presence on the ground, “but we can still prevent terrorist groups from metastasizing and posing threats.”

But Douglas London, who served as the CIA’s counterterrorism chief overseeing the region before retiring in 2019, said the strike and resulting deaths “really illustrates our handicap by having no presence on the ground to collect the best quality and most timely intelligence.”

Not having U.S. or long-trained Afghan partner forces on the ground also foreclosed other possibilities, like potentially stopping the car before it entered a crowded residential area, he said.

“A strike in a congested area would have been the last choice we would have made,” said London, author of the forthcoming book, “The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.”


Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Sept. 17, ...
Associated Press

R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in sex trafficking case

Disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison for using his fame to sexually abuse young fans.
16 hours ago
FILE - The Flint water plant tower is seen, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Flint, Mich. A Michigan Supr...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Years later, Flint water court fight drags on

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan authorities have long promised to hold key officials criminally responsible for lead contamination and health problems arising from a disastrous water switch in Flint in 2014. There’s not much to show more than eight years later. The latest: an extraordinary rebuke Tuesday from the state Supreme Court, which unanimously dismissed indictments […]
16 hours ago
FILE-- Gas is advertised for more than $6 per gallon at a gas station in Sacramento, Calif., Friday...
Associated Press

California lawmakers to vote on $307.9 billion spending plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Wednesday will vote on a plan to spend $308 billion in taxpayer money over the next year as the coffers of the world’s fifth largest economy continue to swell during the pandemic. The centerpiece of the operating budget crafted by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders is […]
16 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in the Sou...
Associated Press

Most say nation on wrong track, including Dems: AP-NORC poll

WASHINGTON (AP) — An overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats, according to a new poll that finds deep pessimism about the economy plaguing President Joe Biden. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults say the country is on the wrong track, and […]
16 hours ago
Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, arrives at the federal courthouse with his wife Sv...
Associated Press

Giuliani’s former Ukraine fixer gets 20 months in prison

NEW YORK (AP) — Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani who was a figure in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment investigation, was sentenced Wednesday to a year and eight months in prison for fraud and campaign finance crimes. Parnas, 50, had sought leniency on the grounds that he’d cooperated with the Congressional probe of […]
16 hours ago
Follow @ktar923...
Sponsored Content by Arizona Department of Health Services

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.

Sponsored Articles

Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
US defends strike that Afghan family says killed innocents