The New York Times published the results of an investigation on Friday that suggests the Biden administration targeted an innocent man who worked for a U.S. organization in a drone strike that killed several civilians. If true, the airstrike could constitute a violation of international law governing such targeted killings in wartime — in other words, a war crime.
The airstrike, which took place on August 29, was presented by the Biden administration as an attack on a potential ISIS-K terrorist who had been driving an explosive-laden vehicle that was to be detonated at the international airport in Kabul. It was the second such strike, following one on Aug. 28 in Nangarhar province against suspected Islamic State terrorists.
The Times report suggests that the U.S. killed “the wrong person” in a report accompanied by security camera footage that shows the target, Zemari Ahmadi, filling water canisters for his family that the military may have mistaken for explosives.
Astonishingly, the Times reports that “[m]ilitary officials said they did not know the identity of the car’s driver when the drone fired.” But in the wake of an August 26 suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers as well as scores of Afghan civilians, they believed that he posed an imminent danger based on “how they interpreted his activities that day.”
The Times reported:
Times reporting has identified the driver as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group. The evidence, including extensive interviews with family members, co-workers and witnesses, suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work. And an analysis of video feeds showed that what the military may have seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family.
Although U.S. officials said that at that point they still knew little about Mr. Ahmadi’s identity, they had become convinced that the white sedan he was driving posed an imminent threat to troops at the airport.
[A]n examination of the scene of the strike, conducted by the Times visual investigations team and a Times reporter the morning afterward, and followed up with a second visit four days later, found no evidence of a second, more powerful explosion.
Experts who examined photos and videos pointed out that, although there was clear evidence of a missile strike and subsequent vehicle fire, there were no collapsed or blown-out walls, no destroyed vegetation, and only one dent in the entrance gate, indicating a single shock wave.