Military Analysis of Kabul Drone Strike Reveals US Was Unsure About Target

The US claims the drone strike targeted ISIS-K, but witnesses say it killed 10 civilians

The US has vehemently defended its August 29th drone strike in Kabul that witnesses say killed 10 civilians, including seven children. But a preliminary military analysis of the bombing that was reported by The New York Times revealed that the Pentagon has no proof the vehicle it targeted was carrying explosives.

The drone strike targeted a vehicle that was driven by Zemari Ahmadi. It hit the car after he pulled into his family’s home, killing children and other relatives who went out to greet Ahmadi.

US military leaders have claimed the civilians were killed by a secondary explosion caused by explosives in Ahmadi’s car. Relatives of Ahmadi who witnessed the strike dispute the claim, and sources told the Times that the US military has no concrete evidence there were bombs in the car. The preliminary analysis only says it was “possible to probable” there were explosives in the vehicle.

Ahmadi’s neighbors and relatives have strongly disputed the idea that he was affiliated with ISIS-K and say he worked with Nutrition and Education International, a charity based out of California. Other Ahmadi family members killed in the strike previously worked with the US-backed Afghan security forces, including a nephew who applied for a visa to be evacuated to the US.

The Times report said the US had no previous intelligence on Ahmadi and only decided he was ISIS-K based on his actions in the moments leading up to the strike. Ahmadi was tracked by an MQ-9 Reaper drone after he drove out of a location that US intelligence analysts believed was an ISIS-K safe house in Kabul.

The report said operators of the MQ-9 watched on a grainy black and white feed as Ahmadi and three other men loaded “wrapped packages” into his car. The only evidence the US has to claim these packages were explosives is that they appeared to be heavy, based on how the men carried them.

The report said Ahmadi then pulled into an “unknown compound,” and the commander controlling the drones ordered the strike. Witnesses have asked how the US didn’t see the children in the courtyard where Ahmadi was. The Times said the operators only saw one other man when the strike was ordered. After it was launched, the drone operators saw other figures enter the courtyard.

Shortly after the strike, US military officials claim they thwarted another bombing of the Kabul airport. The White House has described the attack as “successful,” and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said it was “righteous.” It’s clear by the witnesses’ accounts on the ground and the Times report that the US really had no idea who they were bombing. But this is the nature of US drone strikes and why they often result in so many civilian casualties.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.