Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday the military “got caught up” in specifics of a deadly drone strike that mistakenly killed Afghan civilians last month — and “stayed with it no matter what.”
In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Mullen called the strike that killed seven children and three adults a “tragic mistake.”
“You had an individual in a truck who was loading water,” he said. “It turned out — you know, big water bottles, all of which, sort of, fit” the intended ISIS-K strike.
“It’s almost as if we just got caught up in the specifics of it and stayed with it no matter what,” he lamented.
“Doing it in an extremely quick, confused, chaotic environment made this one that much more difficult and problematic,” he added.
But Mullen said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, was right to admit to the mistake — and suggest there should be reparations.
“My heart goes out to those family members that were so deeply affected,” Mullen said. “And I thought what General McKenzie did was right, admit the mistake and apologize. And he also spoke later of possible reparations. And, in fact, in the end, [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin has also committed to a review that hopefully will look at accountability for this.”
Mullen also defended Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, for speaking with the Chinese in the final days of the Trump administration.
“Having communications with counterparts around the world is routine, and even having them now with China,” he said. “There was a time when we had no communications with China, or we’d have a problem with China, they’d cut off all [military to military] connections. And so, actually, I’m encouraged at the fact that the line of communication is there.”
“This was routine,” he added. “I think it was also overseen, certainly listened to by many other in the interagency process. So, Milley wasn’t out there by himself.”