U.S forces carried out on what they originally believed to be an imminent threat to the evacuation at the kabul airport in afghanistan, general mackenzie now says that strike was a mistake that killed as many as 10 civilians and that its unlikely that the vehicle that was targeted Or those who died were associated with isis k or were a direct threat to u.s forces after all senior pentagon, reporter louis martinez and former u.s army ranger jericho denman, who served multiple tours in afghanistan, join us now for more on this louis. I want to start with you. This is quite the admission. The military initially thought the person in this car was working with isis k and posed an imminent threat to u.s forces. Now theyre saying none of that was true and instead 10 innocent people, including up to seven children, are dead. How did this happen, and this is a total reversal from what the pentagon has been saying on the record now for the last two weeks as early as this week, i was talking to officials who said that this was. They were convinced that this was an isis k target. We know that the new york times did an exhaustive search of relatives and co workers who pointed that the person who was actually driving this white toyota corolla was an employee of a california based ngo that was working inside of kabul um. And so then we knew that learned that they were civilian, uh casualties.

We saw the video right now that youre, seeing on your screen right now that showed that there was very little scorch damage in that courtyard, where that car had been when it was struck. Last sunday morning, on august 29th, um and now youre hearing that there is new information that came in including the use of some of that new york times, information that came in used by centcom investigators. They saw that uh. They concluded that the secondary explosion that they had attributed to um explosives that were being loaded into the car may have actually belonged to a propane tank that was located just next to the vehicle when a hellfire missile struck it. That was the cause of that secondary explosion, which many many senior officials had said was the convincing factor for them that this was that there were explosives in that car uh. You heard secretary general mckenzie acknowledge that this was a tragic mistake that his forces did not have the luxury of time that there were as many as 60 individual reports of potential terrorist activity that sunday inside kabul. They had been following this vehicle for almost eight hours. Its not enough to create what they call a pattern of life, which would be days weeks, maybe sometimes months in some of these long term over the horizon drone strikes. But in this case they were concerned that there might be a tetanus attack at the airport. They were concerned that there might be a car bomb attack.

They followed this individual who intelligence seemed to indicate was stopping at all the right places that would indicate that this was a potential car bomb vehicle, but in the end it was not. It was uh something tragic, as you heard from mackenzie were talking about. Ten individual civilians killed, seven of them, children its its really just such a terrible tragedy and an end uh to the american presence in afghanistan. Coming like this, after uh all these years and jericho demon, i want to go to you on the threat environment and how it interacted with the decision to take this strike. General mckenzie called this a self defense strike in accordance with the rules of engagement, and i wonder if you can kind of dig into that as well as something that our colleague, martha raddatz whos, covered the military for for so long and been to afghanistan. So many times she quoted an intelligence official who told her years and years ago when youre deer, hunting everything looks like a deer talk about the threat environment and how that affects the rules of engagement to go ahead and decide to take this strike right. I think the rules of engagement in this in this particular case, were probably set up to meet two things. One was to get as many people through the gate as possible um, while also safeguarding the marines and soldiers at those gates. I think that uh, looking at the briefing we just saw and the pattern of life that we saw, although limited it, is reasonable to think that this could have been an imminent threat against against our troops and the civilians trying to get through those gates.

Um with that, you know again, everything is uh, it was, the timeline was driven a little harder and then you have to look at if theyd gone later. What would some of those collateral uh damage effects been? Had they waited and we might be, having a whole different conversation now louis part of the administrations defense of the withdrawal from afghanistan is that we still have these over the horizon capabilities to track and fight terrorist activity in afghanistan. So what does this say about how reliable those capabilities are? He was asked about that when he talked about the pattern of life. As i said earlier, there are sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months of tracking that is involved in following these individuals. There was not that ability to do that in this case, however, as mckenzie said, when we have that capability in the future, what youre talking about is the ability to be able to carry that out from a distance now? What does that mean? Does that mean that thats going to happen in every case, probably not because theres going to be a lack of aircraft, theres going to be a lack of intelligence on the ground, theres going to be some signals intelligence, but how much can you actually have its going To be very, very complicated, uh and jericho were talking and properly so, and rightly so, about these big and important issues of responsibility of the at the national level and the the manner in which this happened.

I want to talk about the the human reality here and draw on your experience. You know is serving in combat there are. There are americans who made this mistake, theyre americans who, as they tracked, that vehicle judged that it was a threat? This was people on the ground deciding to take that shot and – and i just wonder if you can talk a little bit about what they might be going through now, ive been in in joint operations centered many times when weve been watching patterns of life and executing These kinetic strikes and theres no one in there that woke up that day and said hey when in doubt whip it out. They were all absolutely trying their best to safeguard our troops and safeguard the civilian afghans trying to get to those gates, and i can guarantee that they went through every manner of mitigation to make sure that this didnt happen and and sometimes those things they do happen. So im sure theyre going through a lot, but myself. If i were talking to him id say they can sleep soundly at night, knowing that they executed the policies and the rules of engagement that were given to them, and sometimes these things happen so jericho. Given that the rules of engagement were followed here and the certainty with which mackenzie says this attack was carried out, how do we prevent this from happening again, or is just this just the cost that comes with trying to keep america safe? I think the only way to prevent these things is to pile on more assets, just so theres more checks and balances.

I dont know how many platforms were watching this event. If there were ways to go through it, but again the only way to really mitigate this stuff and make sure theres no way to make sure it doesnt happen, but is by more eyes and ears whether thats people on the ground, whether its more isr assets or Whatever but um again, the only way to really mitigate this is with more checks and balances, and that comes in the in the form of more assets and louis there. There was a little. There was a question in there about accountability. We are talking about the urgent circumstances and the the the the layers of decision making that went into this in in the face of imminent threats. But will there be there is a review and – and is there possible that in a situation like this, there would be uh repercussions into, in addition to the reparations that general mckenzie talked about terry, its very possible that there could be some accountability, that there could be Some disciplinary action against the individuals who are involved in this strike, but i think there is that waiting factor which jerichos talked about, which is the fact that they were doing their jobs um. There is the scenario that, as general mckenzie said, they were doing their jobs in a moment of very stressful stressful concern that there were potentially an imminent attack against the airport in kabul that was about to take place when you view it through that prism, its possible Um that the the the potential accountability may be reduced or lessened just because of the situation, and you know i i asked somebody if this was going to be characterized as an accident um and the the language i was told was no general mackenzie is going to Be talking about how this is a mistake, you heard him say that over and over again now, when something happens in a mistake, sometimes people look for blame, but again what we also heard from general mckenzie is that in this scenario, everybody was doing everything they were Supposed to be doing and its just that they they were led to what he said was a reasonable conclusion that this may have been a potential isis k terrorist, getting ready to undertake a car bomb attack at the airport.

But at the same time they just didnt have that pattern of life. They had been tracking that vehicle for eight hours. It seemed to match the intelligence, but in the end it took two weeks for them to figure out down at us central command that this was not the same vehicle that this was not the individual that they thought they were looking for. So what happens next secretary austin has launched this review of centcoms investigations. Potentially, we could see something down the road um, but whether it actually results in something uh tangible in terms of punishments that remains to be seen, but in listening to the language today, i think thats probably going to be lessons and it was significant. Also. I thought that general mackenzie said that he as the ultimate combatant commander, the head of centcom, takes personal responsibility in this tragic situation. Louis martinez, pentagon force jericho, denman thanks very much hi. Everyone, george stephanopoulos here, thanks for checking out the abc news, youtube channel. If youd like to get more videos, show highlights and watch live event coverage click on the right over here to subscribe to our channel and dont forget to download the abc news app for breaking news alerts.

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