Former Obama Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Says There Needs to be Accountability for Botched Drone Strike

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Posted: Sep 19, 2021 2:00 PM
Former Obama Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Says There Needs to be Accountability for Botched Drone Strike

Source: AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said Sunday that those responsible for the U.S. military's botched airstrike that killed several civilians should "absolutely" be held accountable.

Mullen was asked on ABC's "This Week" if there needs to be accountability for the attack after U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. announced Friday that it is unlikely that any ISIS-K members were killed in the Aug. 29 airstrike that killed a U.S. aid worker and nine of his family members.

"Absolutely. I think there should. This was obviously an incredibly complex, fast-moving situation," Mullen said. "We lost those 13 military members a couple of days before that. There was clear intelligence that additional strikes were on the way, so it was in that environment in which this strike actually took place."

Mullen, who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the end of the W. Bush administration and into the Obama administration, said the drone strike was a "tragic, tragic mistake" and that he thinks McKenzie did the right thing by apologizing. He also said he hopes that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's review of the incident will lead to "accountability."

Current Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley claimed earlier this month that the U.S. drone strike that was a "righteous strike," but reversed his course Friday by saying the incident was a "horrible tragedy."

"In a dynamic high threat environment, the commanders on the ground had appropriate authority and had reasonable certainty that the target was valid but after deeper post strike analysis our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed," Milley said. "This is a horrible tragedy of war and its heart wrenching and we are committed to being fully transparent about this incident."

Mullen was also asked Sunday by ABC's Martha Raddatz about the Pentagon taking several days to admit their mistake after a report from The New York Times outlined intelligence on the ground about innocent children being killed. 

"I think you're going to want to try to get this right," Mullen said. "Clearly they were convinced at the time it was a good strike, and it takes some time to do that, and this is the same command that's been evacuating Afghanistan and all that that entails. I'm not overly concerned about how long it took."

When asked if he would support accountability for the Biden administration for the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that resulted in 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghan civilians being killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport, Mullen said that he thinks "there should be accountability there as well."