The CIA warned the military that children were present seconds before a US missile killed 10

Just after the US military launched a Hellfire missile to stop a white Toyota Corolla it believed to be an imminent threat to US troops leading the evacuation at the Kabul airport, the CIA issued an urgent warning: Civilians were likely in the area, including possibly children inside the vehicle, according to three sources familiar with the situation.

The warning on August 29 came seconds before the missile hit the car, killing 10 civilians, including seven children.

In the weeks following, the military insisted that it had been a justified strike on a confirmed terrorist target, acknowledging that some civilians might have been killed.

10 family members, including seven children, were reported killed in the airstrike. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

But on Friday, after weeks of media coverage casting doubt on the legitimacy of the strike, the military acknowledged no one in the car was affiliated with ISIS-K as originally believed. “It was a mistake,” General Frank McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, said bluntly at the Pentagon.

It’s not clear whether the military informed the intelligence community that it had decided to pull the trigger — if for no other reason than that the situation was rapidly evolving. The military calls such strikes, which commanders in the field were authorised to take without consulting up the chain of command, “dynamic.”

A view of the a family house after a drone strike one day before the final US evacuation flights from Kabul. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In some cases, the military might ask the intelligence community to “task” its surveillance drones and other assets to watch a particular car or a particular location.

The intelligence community would share data on the targets with the Defence Department in real time, but it is ultimately the military ground force commander’s decision to take the strike.

Some sources say the miscommunication highlights a now-pressing decision for the Biden administration as it weighs how to conduct future strikes in Afghanistan without US troops on the ground there: Will the Defence Department or CIA own the mission?

The CIA declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for US Central Command did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

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