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article imageOp-Ed: Investigation of U.S. attack on Afghan hospital hard to believe

By Ken Hanly     Nov 26, 2015 in Politics
Kunduz - A U.S. military fact-finding investigation into an October 3 attack by an AC-130 gunship that killed 30 people found the pilot aimed at the hospital by mistake, intending to hit a compound nearby from which Taliban were firing.
The hospital was run by Doctors Without Borders. It has demanded an independent investigation which both the U.S. and Afghan authorities have yet to approve.
General John Campbell, the top military and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said: "The proximate cause of this tragedy was the direct result of avoidable human error, compounded by process and equipment failures." These failures are almost beyond belief and give rise to one of many different accounts of what happenedThe US has been accused of changing its version of events four times in the days after the incident, which is now the subject of three inquiries – by the US, Nato and Afghanistan. Several military personnel closely associated with the attack have been suspended from duties until the full adjudication process is complete, General Campbell said.
The crew of the AC-130 gave the coordinates of their target to command headquarters, who knew those coordinates were of a hospital and yet somehow managed not to conclude that the strike was on a hospital: The aircrew provided the coordinates of the trauma center -- a known protected site -- as their intended target one minute prior to firing, the report said. The operational headquarters at Bagram Airfield were aware of the coordinates for the trauma center Campbell said, but "did not realize the grid coordinates for the target matched a location on the no-strike list or that the aircrew was preparing to fire on a hospital." Such incompetence seems highly improbable to me. More likely technical people are having to take the rap for a story concocted to show that the U.S. would never intentionally attack a medical facility. But Afghan special forces, trained by the U.S., had already attacked the Kunduz hospital: In July... Reuters reported that Afghan special forces “raided” this exact MSF hospital in Kunduz, claiming an al Qaeda member was a patient. This raid infuriated MSF staff: The French aid group said its hospital was temporarily closed to new patients after armed soldiers had entered and behaved violently towards staff."
Afghan officials have long been resentful of the fact that the Kunduz hospital treats Taliban and government forces wounded equally. At first, the Afghans insisted the hospital was being used as a command center by the Taliban. Early reports also claimed U.S. and Afghan forces had been under attack from the hospital. A version quickly jettisoned. The early reports in mainstream media claiming the hospital was being used as a Talban base are now all deleted from memory: Fox News yesterday, citing anonymous “defense officials,” said that while they “‘regret the loss’ of innocent life, they say the incident could have been avoided if the Taliban had not used the hospital as a base, and the civilians there as human shields.” In its first article on the attack, the Washington Post also previewed this defense, quoting a “spokesman for the Afghan army’s 209th Corps in northern Afghanistan” as saying that “Taliban fighters are now hiding in ‘people’s houses, mosques and hospitals using civilians as human shields.'” AP yesterday actually claimed that it looked at a video and saw weaponry in the hospital’s windows, only to delete that claim
Even some Afghan officials continued with the narrative that the attack was justified. Abdul Paiman a member of parliament from Kunduz said; “I know that there were civilian casualties in the hospital, but a lot of senior Taliban were also killed,.”
There are other reports indicating that US special operations analysts had been gathering intelligence on the hospital days before it was attacked since they also though that it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity: The special operations analysts had assembled a dossier that included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official who is familiar with some of the documents describing the site. The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and may have housed heavy weapons. This has all been deleted from the memory banks of the mainstream press, it appears.
According to the official narrative, the crew of the gunship found the coordinates provided them by the Afghan authorities turned out to be an empty field. They decided they would attack the hospital nearby since it roughly met the description of the target. The hospital had two large flags on top identifying it as a hospital. Not surprisingly Doctors Without Borders was not enthusiastic about the report: “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.”
General Campbell did not take questions nor would any official comment on whether they thought an independent investigation should be conducted. It took 17 minutes for the U.S. military to respond to the 18 frantic calls from the hospital to stop the attack. This gave the gunship enough time to finish its attack.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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