McKenzie told reporters that the strike – which he said killed seven children – was a “mistake” and offered an apology.
“This strike was taken in the serious belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and those evacuated at the airport, but it was a mistake and I apologize,” he said.
McKenzie added that he was “fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.”
The Pentagon had claimed that at least one ISIS-K facilitator and three civilians were killed in what Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley previously called a “just strike” on August 29. The survey, which was released on Friday, showed that all of those killed in the residential area were civilians.
Prior to the strike, drone operators monitored the farm for up to 4 to 5 minutes. At that time, a male driver left the car. One child parked the car and other children were in the car and in the courtyard – as CNN had heard from the Ahmadi family.
The military based the strike on a reasonable safety standard to start the strike on the vehicle. Tragically, it was the wrong vehicle, said a US military official who was familiar with the investigation to CNN earlier on Friday, adding that reasonable security is not 100% security.
“We did not take the strike because we thought we were wrong – we took the strike because we thought we had a good goal,” McKenzie said. While acknowledging that the strike “was a terrible mistake”, he said he “would not qualify the whole operation” as a failure.
Asked by a reporter to explain how the “complete and utter failure” could have occurred, McKenzie said: “Even if I agree that the strike really did not meet our standards and I deeply regret it, I would not qualify the whole operation. in these terms. “
Earlier, the US Central Command pointed to “significant secondary explosions” as evidence of a “significant amount of explosive material” in the vehicle. On Friday, the US military source said that after examining images from infrared sensors, they would no longer characterize this as an explosion – instead it was more of a flare.
The US official said that in the run-up to the strike, the United States had at least 60 different intelligence reports of threats against US forces at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
A US official with direct knowledge of the norms of a strike of this nature told CNN earlier this month that 10 civilian deaths is an “astronomically high” number and the military would have made security damage estimates in advance, meaning commanders were aware that there was a risk of civilian casualties.
“Had we cooperated with any local partner, we would never have fired a missile at the vehicle but tried to get to the drivers before getting into the car,” a former intelligence official with knowledge of how these strikes were conducted earlier told CNN. “That assumes we had Intel on the car as opposed to the people, and perhaps after it was already on the road, leaving far fewer options.”
Answer the results
Biden was informed of the details of the investigation on Friday morning, an official said.
In a speech last month, the president praised the strike as an example of the United States’ ability to target ISIS-K. The White House has not yet commented on the results of the survey.
On Friday, Milley released a statement on the strike calling it “a terrible tragedy”.
“In a dynamic environment of high threat, the commanders had the appropriate authority in place and had reasonable assurance that the target was valid, but after a deeper analysis after the strike, our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed,” Milley said in a statement.
“This is a terrible war tragedy and its [sic] heartbreaking and we are determined to be completely transparent about this incident, “he added.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also apologized for the strike in a statement on Friday, offering condolences to the family of Zamarai Ahmadi, the driver of the car targeted by the strike.
“We now know that there was no connection between Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we thought we were facing, and that Ahmadi was as innocent a victim as they were. others were tragically killed, he says.
Austin said he was conducting a “thorough review” of the Central Command investigation and the information that prompted the U.S. military to conduct it.
Austin said that when the military has reason to believe it has taken an innocent life, “investigate it and, if it is true, we will admit it.”
“But we must also work just as hard to prevent relapse – regardless of the circumstances, the flow of intelligence or the operational pressure we are working under,” he added. “We will do it in this case.”
The human rights group, Amnesty International, said Friday’s recognition was an “important step towards accountability” but added that Washington must take more steps, including paying damages to family members and survivors of the strike.
“The United States must now commit to a full, transparent and impartial investigation into this incident. Anyone suspected of criminal responsibility should be prosecuted in a fair trial,” said Brian Castner, senior crisis adviser to the Amnesty International Crisis Response Program.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement on Friday that “after such a devastating failure – one that the ministry estimates killed 10 civilians, at least 7 of them children – it may not be the last step.”
“We need to know what went wrong during the hours and minutes leading up to the strike to prevent similar tragedies in the future,” the California Democrat said, adding that his committee “will continue to push for answers.”
This story has been updated with further development.
CNN’s Katie Bo Williams, Oren Liebermann, Ellie Kaufman, Jennifer Hansler and Michael Conte contributed to this report.