New reporting has appeared to cast doubt on whether “an imminent ISIS-K threat” targeted during a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan had ties to the terrorist organization and whether there was a suspected bomb in the targeted suspect’s car as was alleged.
U.S. Central Command issued a statement on Aug. 29 saying that the United States had conducted a defensive strike in Kabul.
“U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport,” Capt. Bill Urban, USN, U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats,” he added.
According to The New York Times, a driver was targeted by military officials because they believed he may have had ties to ISIS, claiming that he may have gone to a safe house of the terrorist organization’s and that his actions during the day seemed dubious. They also alleged that explosives had been put in his vehicle.
The Times noted that the exact identity of the driver, which both the Times and The Washington Post, identified as Zemari Ahmadi, was not known to the military at the time.
However, the Times reported that, based on video footage and interviews with family members and an employer of Ahmadi, the driver did not appear to have ties to the terrorist organization. The driver had worked at an aid group, Nutrition and Education International (NEI), for years.
Some of the people who rode in the car with Ahmadi claimed in interviews with the Times that he did not have explosives. The president of NEI in an interview with the Post also disputed the idea that explosives were in the car. A professor who analyzed the drone strike for the Post said that it was unlikely that there was a sufficient amount of explosives in the Ahmadi's car.
Additionally, both news outlets reported that 10 civilians, including Ahmadi, died in the attack — in contrast to the three people officials have reported thus far.
“While we won’t speak to details of our discussions with members of Congress or about internal deliberations, we absolutely maintain the capability to conduct over-the-horizon strikes against threats that may threaten the homeland or our interests," Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyErdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — The Quad confab Top nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report MORE told The Hill in a statement.
"U.S. Central Command continues to assess the results of the 29 August airstrike. While we won’t get ahead of this assessment, the strike was taken to prevent an imminent threat to the airport," Kirby later added. "We do work very hard to avoid civilian casualties, and we would be deeply saddened by any loss of innocent life.”
--Updated on Sept. 13 at 2:32 p.m.