Pentagon: U.S. Drone Attack That Killed 10 in Kabul Was 'a Tragic Mistake'

United States General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of the United States General Command, admitted Friday that a deadly attack in Afghanistan was a "mistake" that killed civilians.

"This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology," McKenzie told reporters Friday.

The U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan on August 29 on a white Toyota Corolla was originally described as being necessary to prevent an attack on American troops. Ultimately, the military admitted that it led to the deaths of 10 civilians, including seven children.

The U.S. military has been facilitating the evacuations of people from Afghanistan after the two-decade-long war there ended in chaos last month. Thirteen U.S. service members were killed when ISIS-K, an Islamic State-affiliated militant group that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, attacked the airport in Kabul in August.

President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the longest American war in history, following former President Donald Trump's agreement with the Taliban to pull U.S. forces.

American forces had believed that the U.S.-backed Afghan government and military would stave off an intrusion by the Taliban but they were quickly toppled by the Islamic fundamentalist group that had ruled for years but was ousted shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that prompted the war.

Pentagon admits Kabul strike mistake
United States General Kenneth McKenzie said the drone strike in Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians was a "mistake." Above, the Pentagon building is seen in this undated aerial photo in Washington, D.C. U.S. Air Force/Getty Images

After days of speculation whether the American drone strike was valid, McKenzie admitted that it was an issue of the ongoing, frantic situation on the ground.

"We did not have the luxury of time," McKenzie said in a news conference called abruptly Friday afternoon. "We struck under the theory of reasonable certainty."

The U.S. government is considering reparations for those who were killed, but McKenzie said it's difficult to reach people on the ground in Afghanistan.

"Frankly, we thought this was a good lead," McKenzie said. "We were wrong."

McKenzie said it took "gathering the facts" to determine that it wasn't an appropriate strike, amid reports of questions over its validity.

"We worked extremely rapidly to get this information out," he said.

He said there was suspicious activity that prompted the strike.

"The strike team were convinced, at the time, that the area was clear of civilians, and they had taken prudent steps in regards to weapons during the strike to minimize the potential for civilian casualties," McKenzie said. "Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake."

McKenzie said the effort was not a "rush strike." He said he initiated an investigation within 24 hours of the strike to review footage and other information available.

That resulted in the finding that "as many as 10 civilians were killed in the strike, including up to seven children," he said.

"At the time of the strike, based on all the intelligence available and what was being reported, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport," McKenzie said. "I'm here today to set the record straight and acknowledge our mistakes."