Afghanistan: US probe confirms drone crew error in Feb attack

Military commanders had ordered an attack that killed 23 Afghan civilians.

New York: An Air Force investigation has found that a predator drone pilot played down two warnings about the presence of children before military commanders ordered a helicopter attack that killed 23 Afghan civilians and injured 12 others travelling down a road near the village of Shahidi Hassas, in Oruzgan Province in February.

A report on the investigation, released on Friday, said the pilot’s mistakes “clouded the picture” and contributed to poor judgments by field commanders.

According to the New York Times, the attack has inflamed tensions over civilian casualties and raised questions about the hazards of relying on remotely piloted aircraft to track people suspected of being insurgents.

The report, prepared by Air Force Brigadier General Robert P Otto concluded that while intelligence analysts had spotted either children or adolescents on live video provided by the drone, the crew flying the Predator had questioned whether they were innocent teenagers or “military-aged males”.

Brigadier General Otto said the Air Force had disciplined members of the Predator crew for failing to fully relay the warnings to the battle commanders.

His report said the procedures for resolving such disagreements had “not kept pace” with the demands of the war and needed to be adjusted.


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