Lt. Gen. Sami Said, the Department of the Air Force inspector general, has been tasked to lead the investigation into the Aug. 29 Hellfire missile strike in Kabul that killed at least 10 civilians. The strike, which U.S. Central Command later dubbed a mistake, was intended to target ISIS-K militants. Said has 45 days from his appointment to complete the investigation, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military Times.
In his role as Air Force IG, Said has overseen several notable investigations, including a broad review of racial equality and injustice within the service branch. Under his leadership, the office also led a review released this month that found one third of women in the Air Force and Space force said they’d experienced sexual harassment, according to the Associated Press. Prior to becoming Air Force IG, Said supported the International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
In a memo dated Friday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to choose a three-star or above to investigate what went wrong, how strike targeting might be changed in the future, and whether anyone involved in the mission should be disciplined.
That decision came after the Pentagon faced a great deal of public scrutiny following reports of civilian casualties. Initially, official stood by the strike. Joint Chiefs Chairman, Army Gen. Mark Milley, told reporters two days after the attack that it appeared to have been a “righteous” strike and that at least one of the people killed was a “facilitator” for the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, which had killed 169 Afghan civilians and 13 American service members in a suicide bombing on Aug. 26 at the Kabul airport. But following an investigation by the New York Times that an aid worker and his nine family members, including seven children, had been killed, the military walked back its stance.
“This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told media on Sept. 17. Officials confirmed that no ISIS fighters are believed to have been killed in the attack.
Leila has covered global military and security operations from across the U.S., the Middle East, and Latin America.