Rand Paul forces Blinken to admit he doesn’t know if Afghanistan drone strike victim was ISIS-K or not

·3 min read
Senator Rand Paul (EPA)
Senator Rand Paul (EPA)

Senator Rand Paul grilled Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about a US drone strike in Afghanistan that might have killed an aid worker for a US organisation.

The Kentucky Republican’s question came after a The New York Times report on Friday that a drone strike conducted toward the end of the United States’ military operation in Afghanistan may have hit a worker for a US aid group rather than an operative for Isis-K, a wing of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.

“The guy the Biden administration droned, was he an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?” Mr Paul asked, to which Mr Blinken said the administration is reviewing the attack.

“I can’t speak to that and I can’t speak to that in this setting in any event,” Mr Blinken said.

“I don’t know,” Blinken said, adding that the strike was still being reviewed.

“You’d think you’d kind of know before you off someone with a predator drone,” Paul continued.

Mr Paul was a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes, even conducting an hours-long objection to the administration’s then-nominee for CIA director John Brennan.

“The Obama administration droned hundreds and hundreds of people,” he said. “And the thing is there is blowback to that.”

The senator added that he had seen pictures of children who were also killed in the attack.

“I mean, I don’t know if it’s true but I see these pictures of these beautiful children that were killed in the attack,” he said. “If that’s true and not propaganda, if that’s true, guess what? Maybe you’ve created a hundred or thousands of new potential terrorists from bombing the wrong people.”

“We can’t have an investigation after we kill people, we have an investigation before we kill people.”

The senator then asked why the United States didn’t bomb helicopters and planes it left behind.

In an interview with The Independent over the weekend, the American employer of Zemari Ahmadi, 43, hit out at the US for his death.

Ahmadi was killed when his vehicle was taken out in Kabul by a US military drone, a New York Times investigation found.

Serious questions have now been raised about the drone strike after The Times reported that the target was a technical engineer working for a California-based aid group and discovered evidence that he is not an Isis-K terrorist as suggested by US officials. In Kabul, Mr Ahmadi’s relatives said that nine other people were killed in the attack, including seven children.

Following the strike, US officials said the vehicle’s driver posed a threat to US forces at Kabul airport after he was seen loading what appeared to be explosives into his car, and then stopped at an alleged Isis-K safe house in the city.

But Dr Steven Kwon, the founder of California-based, non-profit Nutrition and Education International (NEI), said the US government is lying, in an email to The Independent this weekend.

“The false accusation that our talented, dedicated, long-term employee is instead a plotting Isis-K terrorist has disgraced his honourable name,” Dr Kwon wrote.

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