Sorry, but bad s–t happens in war situations.

This is what it looks like.

“Head of the United States Central Command Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. announced Friday that it is unlikely any ISIS-K members were killed in a Kabul drone strike on August 29, which led to multiple civilian casualties.

“We now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or a direct threat to US forces,” McKenzie said of the airstrike at a briefing, following an investigation by the Military.

“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 and I offer my sincere apology,” Mckenzie said, adding that he is “fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.“”

Comment: I wrote a comment somewhere in the “rear view mirror” about the vagaries of target intelligence. Mckenzie looks like a dummy to me. If they want to can him, I won’t cry much and not because he is a marine. LT Gen Mick Trainor USMC was one of my greatest friend in this life, or maybe any other. He was a soldier’s soldier. McKenzie took the blame for this. He cowboyed up and took it like a man. Mick would have liked that. I like it.

I don’t like the Bidenistas. The right wing media is having a good time thumping them about this but that is unfair and unrealistic.

McKenzie could not fail to act in the presence of a “threat” however ambiguous in evidence that threatened a repetition of the suicide bombing that killed 13 US and wounded many others. Evidence in targeting is often incomplete and ambiguous but the commander MUST decide and the intelligence guys must decide with him. In a similar situation I told MG George Forsyth USA, the CG of the First Cavalry Division that the enemy had three possible courses of action. He said , “No. I must commit my reserve in the morning, and you must commit with me.” We did commit and I learned a great lesson.” pl

This entry was posted in Intelligence, The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Sorry, but bad s–t happens in war situations.

  1. zmajcek says:

    Biden did promise a retaliation after the bombing. How much was the good general under pressure from his superiors to produce a “result” regardless of the quality of the intelligence ?

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    It is a tragedy that the fool commander at Ap Bu Nho did not share MG George Forsyth’s respect for your craft. Which action are you referring to involving the First Cavalry Division in this post Colonel, I don’t recall reading about it in your memoir?

    • Pat Lang says:

      Barbara Ann

      The all out effort by VC MR-10 to capture Song Be in February/March 1969. The enemy tried hard to capture the coastal places, Bien Hoa, Long, Binh, using regular NVA formations and failed. MACV then told 1st Cav to save us in Song Be and other places. We had been fighting desperately for three days and especially nights. It got to be a close thing. The morning of the 4th day “Garryowen Six” “Forsyth” showed up. He had with him the commander of one of his brigades and the captain whose company had been destroyed at Ap Bu Nho on the 3rd of December, 1968. We went into the semi-destroyed above ground briefing building by the helicopter landing pad. I briefed the enemy situation and one of my officers briefed my detachment’s ongoing HUMINT ops. I hoped we were not going to get killed giving a briefing. The predecessor of the commander of the Advisory Team had been killed the first night and his successor flown in from somewhere sat there in a fog. Forsyth asked me what his objective should be at Song Be. The captain of Ap Bu Nho was quietly looking at the floor. “Kill them, every fucking one of them,” I told Forsyth. He and the brigade commander exchanged nods and I was asked to act as the S-2 of the 1st Cav Div task force that would fight at Song Be. The captain was my colleague on the S-3 side and we did our best to kill them all. We ended up with a couple dozen prisoners and from them and the stinking, bloated bodies we concluded that we had killed about 400-600. People who served there the next year told me that Phuoc Long province was very quiet. General Jack Galvin, then a LTC, told me that.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        Thanks Colonel, of course, just read it again. The seminal events you describe on the third night in Number Three Bunker left such a strong impression I’d forgotten what the followed after the cavalry arrived.

        • Pat Lang says:

          Barbara Ann

          My opinion was that the enemy (3 bns of them) would stay in the wooded belt by the river at the bottom of the slope waiting to see what we would do. We landed several battalions of US and ARVN infantry behind them and drove them toward the fortified plateau of Song Be with armed helicopters and artillery from the corps heavy battery south of town supporting. After a day or so the cavalry waded the river and walked up the slope to us. We had spent the intervening period de-mining lanes on the slope. I remember reaching up to help some soldier over the parapet. Garryowen!

  3. peter says:

    by this “imminent threat” definition you could bomb any vehicle driving towards the airport…

    • Pat Lang says:


      You could but unless you think they wanted to kill civilians the ability does not equal intent. They had something; SIGINT, IMINT, something and 2+2 did not equal 4.

  4. TTG says:

    To me the biggest puzzlement was the claim of a secondary explosion after the drone strike indicating explosives in the vehicle. Was there a secondary explosion? Did the analysts honestly witness what looked like a secondary explosion or somehow convince themselves they saw one? Or was that an after the fact lie to cover up the mistake? If it was a manufactured lie, it is far beyond the tragedy and shame of killing innocents. It is dishonorable.

    • Pat Lang says:

      they say it was a propane tank hung on the tailgate. Could be.

      • TTG says:

        Makes sense. A tragedy of errors or even falling to a deliberate ISIS-K deception is more palatable than a deliberate lie by our leaders to deceive us all. As you said, shit happens in war… all the time.

  5. Aletheia in Athens says:

    Yeah…but there seems to be happening increasing “shit” as long as Big Data is being applied to everything, including “remote controlled war”…

    The NSA has been recording nearly all phone calls in Afghanistan since 2013. This mass interception system is a key element in the US drone program which has killed 1,000s of people including hundreds of women & children.

    Good time to read “The Uncounted,” an extraordinary piece of reportage by @AzmatZahra and @Anand_Gopal_, which found that civilian casualties from air strikes had been underreported by the U.S. government, possibly by a factor of 31.

  6. English Outsider says:

    Song Be. Pages 285 to 287 of my edition were for me the heart of the book.

    Lang did not know it at the time…

    .. ever after felt that the NVA and the VC …

    … it guided his work for the rest of his career …

    That, and the episode where the helicopter interrogation was stopped, summed up the to most of us unfamiliar world of the professional soldier; and the imperatives and codes that must govern that world. It must inevitably apply to the incident discussed here and therefore ” I don’t like the Bidenistas. The right wing media is having a good time thumping them about this but that is unfair and unrealistic.” is the only verdict that can be arrived at.

    • JohninMK says:

      Regarding the ‘thumping’ there are some, including Sundance at the Treehouse who view it as part of the power struggle between on the one hand State and the Intel community and the Military and the White House on the other. Where each side tries to get control of the ‘fan’ to blow the reputational damage of Afghanistan away from themselves.

  7. Leith says:

    Col Lang, when you were in DIA, did you know a Marc Garlasco who was Chief of High Value Targeting? Or was he after your time? He got a lot of abusive propaganda by the Israelis for his public comments on IDF use of cluster munitions in Lebanon and Gaza. They tried to claim he was an anti-semite and a Nazi sympathizer.

    Anyway, what he is now saying about the August Kabul drone strike is that the white Toyota Corolla is the most common car in Afghanistan. So the intel, or the source, should have been better checked before the strike. Unfortunately the time sensitivity did not give much room for that. Perhaps it was better to take it out in the compound instead of on the street on the way to the airport where casualties would have been much higher.

    • Pat Lang says:


      I do not think there was such a job then.

    • TTG says:

      Leith, I knew Marc Garlasco when he was a fairly new analyst at DIA. We worked together sometime in the late 90s for a short time on a project dealing with determining the whereabouts of Scott Speicher, shot down in the First Gulf War. He was enthusiastic and intense with any project he worked on. He did move on to high value targeting during the Second Gulf War. He was not a Nazi sympathizer at all. That was total bullshit.

Comments are closed.