Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that he doesn’t know at this stage whether a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, last month killed a suspected member of the ISIS-K terrorist group or an Afghan aid worker and his family.
“The guy the Biden administration droned, was he an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) asked Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal.
The Kentucky senator was referring to a report by The New York Times that the drone mistakenly struck Zemari Ahmadi, a 43-year-old worker for Nutrition and Education International, a California-based aid group.
Blinken replied: “The administration is, of course, reviewing that strike. I’m sure that a full assessment will be forthcoming.”
“So you don’t know if it was an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?” Paul asked.
“I don’t know because we’re reviewing it,” Blinken responded.
It comes after Capt. Bill Urban, a Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson, confirmed on Aug. 29, a day after the strike, that the United States is investigating reports of civilian casualties.
Urban said at the time that while the U.S.-led counter-terrorism drone attack disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat to Kabul’s international airport, “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”
The Pentagon earlier said in a statement that the drone strike killed two “high-profile” ISIS-K terrorist group members and wounded another.
In a statement on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that department works “very hard” to avoid civilian casualties, adding, “We would be deeply saddened by any loss of innocent life.”
“You’d think you’d kind of know before you off somebody with a predator drone, whether he’s an aid worker or he’s an ISIS-K operative,” Paul added on Tuesday, probing Blinken further on the issue.
The Aug. 28 drone strike came shortly after an attack on Kabul’s international airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and over 100 Afghans. ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate, claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 attack, bragging about a suicide bomber “managing to penetrate all the security fortifications” put into place by U.S. troops and the Taliban terrorist group.
Founded in 2015, ISIS-K is a sworn enemy of the Taliban and the United States. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said that the terrorist group was probing the attacks.
Taliban involvement in the attack on Kabul airport also hasn’t been ruled out by the United States. Kirby said on Aug. 27 that U.S. officials were unsure if the Taliban was involved.