Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has approved General Said’s findings and recommendations, the chief Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said last week, and has left it up to the four-star generals leading the military’s Central and Special Operations commands to decide, probably in the next few weeks, whether anyone should be disciplined or rebuked for the strike.
In describing his investigation, General Said said last week that surveillance videos showed at least one child in the area some two minutes before the military launched the drone strike. But the general also said that footage would have been easy to miss in real time.
In the subsequent interview, General Said provided additional details, saying that nine seconds before military operators fired the missile, surveillance video showed the presence of four adults and two children — the largest number of people captured on video before the strike. According to General Said, that group of people — in addition to Mr. Ahmadi and his cousin, whom analysts clearly saw before launching the strike — would have also been easy to miss.
Separately, three U.S. officials said on Monday that the C.I.A. had alerted the military to the presence of a child at the strike site on Aug. 29 but that military officials said the warning came too late — after the missile was launched.
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General Said and other top military officials, including Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the Central Command, have sought to put the drone strike into the context of the moment, with American officials at a heightened state of alert after a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport three days earlier killed about 170 civilians and 13 U.S. troops.
The military’s first mistake was incorrectly identifying a family home as an Islamic State safe house. “In the 48 hours prior to the strike, sensitive intelligence indicated that the compound at point No. 1 on the map was being used by ISIS-K planners, used to facilitate future attacks,” General McKenzie told reporters at his Sept. 17 briefing, referring to an Islamic State affiliate.
Another recurring aspect of the intelligence, General McKenzie said, was that ISIS would use a white Toyota Corolla as a key element in the next attack against American troops at the airport.
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