A US airstrike in Kabul against a supposed Islamic State bomber actually killed an innocent man who worked for a US aid group and his family, according to newly published testimony and footage — raising the specter that the Pentagon lied to the public about the strike.
The reported case of mistaken identity also further tars President Biden for his chaotic pullout of US troops from Afghanistan, which left behind hundreds of US citizens and thousands of at-risk Afghans.
Zemari Ahmadi and nine members of his family, including seven children, were killed in the airstrike on Aug. 29, one day before the final US evacuation flights from Kabul, his brother Romal Ahmadi told the New York Times.
Ahmadi, who was the apparent target of the strike, worked for 14 years as a technical engineer in Afghanistan for the Pasadena, Calif.-based charity group Nutrition and Education International, which feeds hungry Afghans.
The aid group had applied for him to move to the US as a refugee.
New security footage from his workplace shows Ahmadi, whose neighborhood had unreliable water service, filling containers with water at his employer’s office at 2:35 p,m. shortly before he returned home. Fire-damaged containers consistent with the water canisters were photographed by the Times.
He and colleagues, who had driven to work, also were carrying laptop computers that day, according to security footage, possibly explaining the military’s claim that the targeted Toyota Corolla contained carefully wrapped packages.
The Times disputed the Pentagon’s claim that secondary explosions demonstrated that explosive materials were ignited by the US Reaper drone’s Hellfire missile.
The aging walls near Ahmadi’s car were not toppled by the airstrike or by any subsequent explosions.
Three weapons experts told the Times there was no evidence of a secondary explosion because there were no blown out walls or destroyed vegetation near the burned-out car. A small crater under car was consistent with a Hellfire missile, the experts said.
The Pentagon initially presented the airstrike as a successful mission to prevent another bombing of the Kabul airport after 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghans died in a suspected Islamic State suicide attack on Aug. 26.
“The procedures were correctly followed and it was a righteous strike” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said afterward.
Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for the US Central Command, said: “U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense… 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.”
The military had been given broad leeway to attack suspected terrorists without presidential approval after the airport bombing — despite consistent reports of civilian casualties linked to US airstrikes in Afghanistan.
One day after the airport attack, the US military said it on Aug. 27 killed two suspected members of the Islamic State group in eastern Afghanistan via drone strike — though the Biden administration has refused to reveal their names. Two days later, the US drone killed Ahmadi in Kabul.
President Biden spoke approvingly of US strikes in Afghanistan on Aug. 31 in a speech marking the end of the nearly 20-year US intervention.
“We struck ISIS-K remotely, days after they murdered 13 of our servicemembers and dozens of innocent Afghans. And to ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet,” Biden said in the White House State Dining Room.
The Times reports that drone operators weren’t surveilling Ahmadi’s home before the airstrike, but had followed what they believed to be his vehicle during the day. The paper noted that not long after the strike, ISIS militants used a white Toyota Corolla — the same model as Ahmadi’s car — to launch missiles at Kabul’s airport.
The White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said: “U.S. Central Command continues to assess the results of the airstrike in Kabul on Aug. 29. We won’t get ahead of that assessment. However, as we have said, no other military works harder than we do to prevent civilian casualties. Additionally, as Chairman Milley said, the strike was based on good intelligence, and we still believe that it prevented an imminent threat to the airport and to our men and women that were still serving at the airport.”