Top commander:  Afghans requested airstrike on MSF hospital

Clarifying Pentagon statements immediately following U.S. aircraft inadvertently bombing a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital, coalition commander, General John Campbell, stated the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz was called in by Afghani troops.

22 civilians were killed in the strike.

“We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces.  An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck. This is different from the initial reports which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf.  As you know the United States military takes extraordinary steps to avoid harm to civilians. However, the Taliban have chosen to fight from within a heavily urbanized area, purposely placing civilians in harm’s way. We will continue to take all necessary steps to avoid future civilian casualties,” Campbell said.

Mentioning that three separate inquiries were underway, Campbell declined further comment.

The Pentagon, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Afghan government are conducting independent reviews of the incident.

In a Monday statement, MSF General Director Christopher Stokes greeted Campbell’s remarks with skepticism and implied Campbell was attempting to assign blame elsewhere.

The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs.  The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack.”

Despite three ongoing probes, MSF repeated its earlier call for an independent inquest.

There is no way the U.S. can win here.

Despite this accident, and it is an accident, accounts vary as to who instructed an American C-130 Hercules ground-attack aircraft to assault the area, which included the MSF hospital, and precisely why this event occurred.

The New York Times printed a story which mentioned local Afghan police officials noted Taliban insurgents had entered the hospital and transformed the facility into a military position.

Contradicting the Afghan security services, an MSF employee tweeted from the Netherlands only staff were present at the time of the attack.

Despite varying accounts, regrettably, these incidents occur during moments of conflict and, unfortunately, exact a toll among civilians and humanitarian workers.

Charged with defending civilization against Taliban barbarism, the U.S. is partly to blame for this tragedy; however, it appears with the information at hand the United States is accepting liability for its role and immediately formed a board to investigate the matter.

The overriding concern is to avoid this development from evolving into further distraction:  If this inadvertent bombing becomes a hindrance, it will only serve as a propaganda tool for Taliban terrorists and will likely prevent the U.S. from advancing our goal of isolating Taliban insurgents and their sympathizers.

 

[Reuters] [New York Times] [Twitter] [Photo Courtesy CBS News]