The US military on Friday admitted that the August 29 drone strike on a white sedan in Kabul resulted in the deaths of 10 Afghans, including up to seven children.
“Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K,” said Gen Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command.
The admission is a reversal of the Pentagon's earlier claims that the strike had prevented an imminent ISIS-K threat to the Kabul airport and comes after separate investigations by The New York Times and The Washington Post suggested that there were no explosives in the white sedan that was struck.
“As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and its tragic outcome,” Gen McKenzie said. He also offered his “profound condolences” to the families of those killed.
The drone strike came days after a suicide attack at the Kabul airport killed 13 US troops and up to 170 Afghans.
The driver who was hit in the attack was identified as Zemari Ahmadi, a worker for a California-based aid group.
His movements that day, according to The Post's investigation, were in accordance with his daily duties for the non-profit and may have been misinterpreted.
Military officials were unaware of Ahmadi's identity at the time of the attack, but deemed his activities suspicious and thought he was loading explosives into the trunk of his vehicle. A video analysis conducted by The Times found Ahmadi and a colleague were loading canisters of water.
In a statement, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin ordered a “thorough review of the investigation just completed by US Central Command".
Mr Austin added that the investigation found no connection between ISIS-K and Ahmadi, and that his activities on August 29 were “completely harmless".
The Pentagon was reportedly considering reparations for the civilians killed.