The Laws of War Don’t Apply to the Kabul Drone Strike

The Laws of War Don’t Apply to the Kabul Drone Strike
An Afghan inspects the damage at the Ahmadi family house after a U.S. drone strike killed Zemari Ahmadi and nine other family members on Aug. 29, Kabul, Afghanistan (AP file photo by Bernat Armangue).

Last week, the U.S. Department of Defense released a one-page summary of its findings from an investigation into a drone strike in Kabul that killed a family of 10 during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. U.S. military officials had received intelligence that a specific car had visited a “suspected” Islamic State safehouse and loaded what “appeared to be” explosives into its trunk. 

After the vehicle was destroyed with explosives in the driveway of the house, it was determined that the driver was actually Zemari Ahmadi, an electrical engineer who worked for a U.S. aid organization. Ahmadi was killed in the attack, and nine members of his family, including seven children who had come out of the house to greet their father, also died of their injuries, including burns and shrapnel. A New York Times investigation later showed that the luggage loaded into Ahmadi’s car was likely water cannisters.

The DoD’s statement absolved those involved of responsibility for the “regrettable” civilian deaths. As the report notes, “Individuals directly involved in the strike interviewed during the investigation believed at the time that they were targeting an imminent threat. The overall threat to U.S. forces at [the Hamid Karzai International Airport] at the time was very high. Intel indicated attacks were imminent. The investigation found no violation of law, including the Law of War.” 

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