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Afghanistan: US military releases videos of Kabul’s drone strikes killing 10 civilians

The recently released videos show the view from above Kabul as the military tracked a white Toyota Corolla through parts of the city, believing it was an ISIS-K car loaded with explosives and building a case to target it with a preemptive strike.

The Pentagon first defended the attack, claiming it had killed an ISIS-K operative planning an impending attack on U.S. forces in the final days of the evacuation and withdrawal from Afghanistan. Just three days earlier, an ISIS-K suicide bomber had killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans at Abbey Gate, the main entrance to the airport.

With ongoing threats of yet another attack, the U.S. attack cell believed it was tracking an ISIS-K member from a terrorist hideout as he made his way through the city within eight hours.

In fact, the military tracked down Zamarai Ahmadi, an Afghan who worked for Nutrition and Education International, a non-governmental organization focusing on food security. Ahmadi had applied for a special immigrant visa and intended to bring his family to the United States.
About three weeks after the attack, the military acknowledged that it was a tragic mistake that had killed 10 innocent civilians. A subsequent review by the Air Force of the circumstances surrounding the attack found "no violation of the law, including the law of war."
No one has been held responsible for the mistake, though Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has promised an increased focus on keeping the military to a higher standard to avoid civilian casualties and damage.

Steven Kwon, president of Nutrition and Education International, criticized the decision not to punish any U.S. military personnel, saying, "When the Pentagon absolves itself of responsibility, it sends a dangerous and misleading message that its actions were somehow justified. "which increases security risks and makes evacuation even more urgent."

In the longest of the three videos, the car is seen on its way along the streets of Kabul in grainy black-and-white footage. About five minutes into the 15-minute video, the car reaches its final destination and slowly begins to reverse into a parking lot.

Seven minutes and seven seconds into the video, the words "LRD LASE DES" appear, indicating that a laser designer has identified and reached the target. At least two or three people are seen in the grainy video milling around the car. Thirty-three seconds later, the car disappears under a glowing fireball.

The drone video zooms out as the explosion subsides and the smoke spills out of the wrecked car. The drone continues to circle overhead as people move toward the blast site. About three minutes later, the video changes from black and white to color, and crowds can be seen around the blast site. People are standing on rooftops over their heads trying to pour buckets of water on the remains of the car to put out the flames.

"While the attack was intended for what is believed to be an imminent threat to our troops at Hamad Karzai International Airport, none of the family members killed are now believed to have been linked to ISIS-K or threats to our troops," said Capt. . Bill Urban, spokesman for the US Central Command, after the release of the videos. "We deeply regret the loss of human life that was the result of this strike."

The US Central Command, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, released the videos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The New York Times, which first reported on them.

Another video, five minutes long, shows the Corolla in color and higher quality in the minutes before and after the strike, though the car disappears behind a building for part of the video. The video changes to black and white about halfway as a white diamond marker appears over the car. The cursor turns purple seconds before the missile hits the car, and an explosion fills the screen. The video then returns to color, and soon after, crowds begin to form on the spot. The video then pans away from the explosion.

A third video, also about five minutes long, shows a drone observing a number of places in Kabul before focusing on a parking lot with a number of parked white cars.

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