Spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday that the Pentagon is “not in a position to dispute” reports of civilian casualties in Kabul following a U.S. airstrike.
A U.S. drone strike attempting to target the Islamic State reportedly killed 10 civilians Sunday, according to family members who spoke to The Washington Post. Multiple young children reportedly died as a result of the airstrike, which U.S. Central Command said took out a car bomb that was an immediate threat to the Kabul airport.
Amid the reports of civilian casualties, U.S. Central Command admitted Sunday evening that “it is unclear what may have happened” and that “any potential loss of innocent life” would be “deeply” sad. On Monday, Kirby appeared equally unclear on what happened when he was asked if the Pentagon has “any indications that those reports [of civilian casualties] may be accurate.”
“We are not in a position to dispute it right now,” Kirby said. “We’re assessing and we’re investigating. Look, make no mistake, no military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than the United State military, and nobody wants to see innocent life taken. We take it very, very seriously and when we know that we have caused innocent life to be lost in the conduct of our operations, we’re transparent about it.”
“If we have verifiable information that we did in fact take innocent life here, then we’ll be transparent about that too. Nobody wants to see that happen,” he continued.
Kirby also said that while the administration doesn’t want to see the loss of innocent lives, officials also didn’t “want to see happen what we believe to be a very real, a very specific and a very imminent threat to the” airport, troops and civilians in the area. (RELATED: Pentagon Says Taliban Released ‘Thousands’ Of ISIS-K Prisoners Ahead Of Kabul Terrorist Attack)
President Joe Biden was warned by his national security team and commanders in the field that “the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high” as of Saturday. The commanders informed Biden “that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” according to a statement he issued Saturday.
The warnings follow a terror attack that killed 13 U.S. service members as well as at least 169 Afghans. ISIS-K took responsibility for the attack, which occurred right outside of the Kabul airport gates as swarms of people waited in an attempt to be evacuated from the Taliban-led country.