President Joe Biden’s airstrike campaign against terrorist elements in Afghanistan may end up going as well as his military strategy on the ground went.
According to several reports, the drone strike — meant to target individuals with Afghanistan’s branch of the Islamic State group and neutralize a threat against Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul — has killed multiple children and other family members.
CNN reported that the target was a suicide bomber who was an “imminent” threat to the airport, as per a statement from U.S. Central Command on Sunday.
However, a local journalist working with the outlet said six children and three other members of a family were killed in the attack.
While the drone strike in a residential neighborhood in Kabul targeted a single vehicle, it was unclear whether those killed were inside that vehicle, another vehicle or in a house.
The brother of one of those who died said they were “an ordinary family” and that the youngest child killed was 2 years old.
“We are not ISIS or Daesh and this was a family home — where my brothers lived with their families,” he told CNN.
“All the neighbors tried to help and brought water to put out the fire and I saw that there were five or six people dead,” a neighbor of the family told CNN.
“The father of the family and another young boy and there were two children. They were dead. They were in pieces. There were [also] two wounded.”
According to The Washington Post, a defense official said the attack took place less than a mile from the airport, a strike complicated due to the fact it was in a densely populated residential area.
The official told the Post that a Hellfire missile hit the vehicle and the subsequent explosion affected a building.
“The official said the military assessed that two militants were in the vehicle when it exploded,” the Post reported. “It is unclear whether the car was rigged to be a bomb or a suicide vest detonated, causing the secondary explosion.”
“Photographs of the scene showed two burned-out cars next to a white, two-story house with many of the dwelling’s windows blown out. It was unclear whether both cars were targeted.”
The Post quoted a source in the neighborhood as saying five children and four adults had been killed in the attack.
“The family was living normal life. They were not involved in militant activities,” the source said.
The Post quoted a Taliban official who said the adults who were killed were outside of the vehicle, but four of the children were inside. CNN, meanwhile, quoted a man who said it was a compound and that “a rocket hit and six people were in there who have been killed. There was a car inside.”
While reports out of Afghanistan generally seemed to cohere in form — nine dead, including a number of children — U.S. Central Command was still assessing how many civilian casualties there were, according to The Guardian.
“We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties. It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further,” Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for Central Command, said in a statement, according to CNN.
“We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”
Urban called the strike “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.”
“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” he said.
A Taliban spokesman, meanwhile, told CNN that the United States was “not right to conduct operations on others’ soil” and that the Taliban should have been informed.
“Whenever the U.S. conducts such operations, we condemn them,” spokesman Bilal Kareemi said.
Ordinarily, what the Taliban thought about a drone strike against a terrorist group set on attacking Hamid Karzai International Airport wouldn’t matter much. The problem is that the Taliban now controls the country, the Biden administration is determined to withdraw all troops by Tuesday, the airport is the only way out, Americans and their allies remain in the country and the only way to ensure their safe passage to the airport involves working with the Taliban.
The reason we’re at this point is that the Biden administration lost control of the situation on the ground for a multitude of reasons, primary among them the fact the president was hell-bent on a timeline-based withdrawal from the country no matter what the consequences may be.
After those consequences included a terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. troops and at least 169 Afghans at Kabul airport, according to The Associated Press, the military is now reduced to drone strikes to prevent future attacks — including Sunday’s, which likely killed a number of children.
This is the panicked response that our president thought would get us out of trouble in Afghanistan? If anything, we’re getting dug deeper — all in the name of a withdrawal that feels anything like it.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.