The report said the Kiowa stopped firing when its crew spotted brightly colored clothing, indicating women and children. It also said the 23 people killed were men, and that three children and a woman were among those wounded. At the time, Afghan officials said that at least 27 civilians were killed, many of them women and children.
Information from drones is supposed to be analyzed by command post officers, who must complete a long series of checklists before authorizing an attack. Those commanders rely on reports from drone crews, ground commanders, intelligence analysts and Afghan military and civilian sources in assessing fast-moving combat situations.
U.S.-based drone crews are also assisted by other analysts watching video feeds at military bases around the world, controlled by a central air command station in Qatar. In addition, a military air controller posted with the ground unit or at a nearby command post acts as a communications bridge between drone crews and ground commanders.
According to McHale's report, the system broke down in the Oruzgan case. Inaccurate reporting by the Predator crew led the Special Forces ground commander to believe that insurgents in the vehicles were rushing to reinforce their comrades in the village. Intercepted communications described insurgents massing to attack the U.S.-Afghan force there.