US accepts blame for Afghan hospital attack

US General John Campbell says deadly air strike on MSF's hospital that killed at least 22 people in Kunduz was mistake

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Members of CodePink protest the deadly American attack on a hospital in northern Afghanistan as U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Resolute Support Mission Commander Gen. John Campbell, right, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015

General John Campbell, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said in testimony on Tuesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the US air strike on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz was a mistake.

"To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fire was a US decision made within the US chain of command," Campbell said. "A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility."

General Campbell also said that the US must think boosting its military existence in Afghanistan after 2016.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international non-governmental organization for humanitarian aid, denounced Campbell’s announcement as an act to shift blame to the Afghans. Jason Cone, Doctors Without Borders’ US executive director, said "Campbell’s shifting story underlined the need for an independent inquiry."

“Today’s statement from General Campbell is just the latest in a long list of confusing accounts from the US military about what happened in Kunduz on Saturday,” Cone said.

“They are now back to talking about a ‘mistake’. A mistake that lasted for more than an hour, despite the fact that the location of the hospital was well known to them and that they were informed during the air strike that it was a hospital being hit. All this confusion just underlines once again the crucial need for an independent investigation into how a major hospital, full of patients and MSF staff, could be repeatedly bombed.”

The US air strike on a hospital in Kunduz killed at least 22 people on Saturday.

Abdullah Guard, commander of Afghan special forces in Kunduz, stated Afghan forces had been under heavy fire in Kunduz near the hospital, clashing with Taliban militants who estimated at almost 500 men. “It is possible our forces might have called for an air strike to hit the enemy position, but that doesn’t mean to go and bomb the hospital,” he told Reuters.

However the MSF members had denied any statements claiming that the Taliban fighters were firing from its hospital at Afghan forces.

"The gates of the hospital compound were closed all night so no one that is not staff, a patient or a caretaker was inside the hospital when the bombing happened," the MSF said.

Kate Stegeman, a spokesperson for the organization specified the hospital, belonging to the medical aid group, was hit several times during "sustained bombing" and is reported to be no longer functional, causing the remaining staff to treat the wounded in two other health facilities in the city.

The MSF declared the US air attack in Kunduz was a war crime and criticized Afghan government statements legitimizing the US air strike and described it as "disgusting".

UN Human Rights Chief Officer Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein also described the US-led forces' air strike targeting the hospital as 'inexcusable' and possibly a ‘war crime.’

TRTWorld and agencies