The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that “human error” was a factor in the Oct. 3 bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 30 civilians and left 37 wounded. In a statement, Doctors Without Borders, which had previously called the attack a probable war crime, said the report was “shocking” and left “more questions than answers.”

Gen. John F. Campbell said the strike was “tragic, but avoidable.” Human errors compounded by technical malfunctions onboard the AC-130 attack aircraft caused the strike, he said, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon in a video broadcast from Kabul.

The military investigation found that the “cause of this tragedy was … avoidable human error, compounded by process and equipment failures,” Campbell said.

Campbell addresses reporters in this CNN video:

From the Los Angeles Times:

The medical facility was misidentified as a target by U.S. military personnel who believed they were striking a different building several hundred meters away where there were reports of Taliban fighters, he said. The hospital was on the military’s so-called “no-strike list.”

Campbell did not identify the names or number of individuals suspended and did not say whether they would face disciplinary or criminal charges. Decisions on whether to prosecute will be made by the U.S. Special Operations Command, officials said.

“The cornerstone of our military justice system is the independence of decision-makers following a thorough investigation such as this one,” Campbell said. “We will study what went wrong and take the right steps to prevent it in the future.”

According to the military’s investigation, the special operations gunship had sought to attack a building suspected of being used as a base by Taliban insurgents, but the plane’s onboard targeting system identified the coordinates as an open field. The crew decided to open fire on a nearby large building, not knowing that it was the Doctors Without Borders hospital.

Doctors Without Borders, which had previously said the attack likely was a war crime, released a statement saying the report left “more questions than answers.”

“It is shocking that an attack can be carried out when U.S. forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a no-strike list and have malfunctioning communications systems,” said the statement from the group, also known as MSF, its French acronym.

“It appears that 30 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people are denied life-saving care in Kunduz simply because the MSF hospital was the closest large building to an open field and ‘roughly matched’ a description of an intended target,” the statement said.

“The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war,” the group said, repeating its call for an “independent and impartial investigation.”

The attack came as American warplanes and ground forces, including an undisclosed number of special operations troops, were assisting an Afghan operation to retake Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, which had fallen to the Taliban in late September.

After five days of fighting, U.S. special operations and their Afghan counterparts had moved into the compound of the provincial chief of police. On Oct. 2, the Afghan military asked an unnamed U.S. special operations commander for air support that night as they cleared a building once used by the Afghan intelligence service that they believed was controlled by Taliban. The American commander promised to have aircraft on standby, Campbell said.

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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