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Representatives Ask DoD for Answers and Accountability After Kabul Drone Strike Killed 10 Civilians

September 29, 2021
Press Release

Pasadena, CA - Today, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) led a letter signed by eleven other Members of Congress to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III asking for answers and information regarding the August 29th drone strike in Kabul that killed at least ten civilians. On September 17th, the Pentagon admitted that the drone strike was made in error, but this came weeks after assurances from the Pentagon that the strike was “righteous” and was known to have disrupted an ISIS attack. In light of these statements, the members want to know what involvement Secretary Austin had in ordering the drone strike, what safeguards are in place to protect civilians, what went wrong to create the disconnect between what the Pentagon told the public happened and what actually happened, and what is being done to prevent future casualties.

Additionally, an amendment introduced by Rep. Chu calling on the Pentagon to make restitution to the victims was adopted by the House of Representatives and included in the version of the National Defense Authorization Act passed out of the House last week.

“The August 29 drone strike which killed ten innocents, including at least seven children, is horrifying and inexcusable. I am glad that the Pentagon acted quickly to accept responsibility, but an admission of guilt is just the beginning,” said Rep. Judy Chu. “We can never bring back the people whose lives we ended with that strike, but we can make it right with their families and help them begin the process of rebuilding their lives. We also need to make sure no more families go through this pain. That is why we are asking the Secretary of Defense for details on what the Pentagon does to protect civilian life and what is being done to prevent this kind of mistake from happening again.”

Rep. Chu is joined on the letter by Reps. Karen Bass (CA-37), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jerry Nadler (NY-10), Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)


The letter is available online here and pasted below:

Dear Secretary Austin,

We write to express our deep concern with the Department of Defense’s policies and procedures around the August 29, 2021 drone strike in Kabul that resulted in the wrongful deaths of at least ten innocent Afghan civilians, including seven children. While we appreciate that wartime decisions are made in accordance with the best intelligence available in order to protect the lives of American servicemembers and others from imminent threats, the shocking disconnect between what this drone strike was purported to accomplish and the impact it actually had raises important questions about safeguards in the Department of Defense to prevent civilian casualties.

Originally, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley claimed the strike in Kabul was a “righteous” strike. And in other statements, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) asserted that “we know” the strike “disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat.” It took a follow-up statement from CENTCOM to even confirm that civilians had died in the strike. And only weeks later, after public outcry and investigations by the both the New York Times and Washington Post, did CENTCOM Commander General Kenneth McKenzie confirm that the strike was a “tragic mistake.”

Acknowledging our error is vital and I applaud the Pentagon for its timely and efficient review of the drone strike and for sharing those findings with the public quickly. However, the acknowledgment of responsibility does not explain how such a decision was made, what precautions were taken to protect civilians, and what is being done to prevent similar deadly mistakes in the future.

Specifically, we would like to know:

  1. Whether the Secretary of Defense is involved in the decision-making process when civilian lives are at risk?
  2. What precautions are taken to avoid civilian casualties and were those considerations made during this strike? If so, what went wrong?
  3. What disconnect occurred to result in repeated statements from CENTCOM that they were assured the strike was correct and successful before acknowledging the civilian deaths?
  4. What precautions are being taken to prevent against future civilian deaths?

We appreciate your consideration and I look forward to your response.