News / Asia

    US Military Personnel Punished for Kunduz Hospital Attack

    FILE - Afghan (L) talks to staff members in a charred corridor of the damaged Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in northern Kunduz.
    FILE - Afghan (L) talks to staff members in a charred corridor of the damaged Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in northern Kunduz.
    VOA News

    Officials say U.S. personnel who were involved in the devastating, half-hour aerial attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan have been or will be punished.

    Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S.-Central Command said "those individuals most closely associated with the incident have been suspended from their duties and were referred for administrative action." 

    The punishments have not been publicly announced, but are reported to include letters of reprimand, which can block promotions.

    The Defense Department is set to soon publish a redacted version of its investigation of the attack.

    The attack on the hospital in Kunduz in October killed 42 people, including medical staff and patients. 

    Army General John Campbell, who was the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan at the time, but has since relinquished command, has said the attack on the hospital was "directly the result of avoidable human error."  He called the strike "a tragic mistake."

    The medical charity Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, has called for an outside, independent investigation of the airstrike, but that has not happened.

    American forces misidentified a target in Kunduz on October 3 that resulted in the attack on the MSF hospital, according to a U.S. military investigation conducted last year.

    In this photograph released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Oct. 3, 2015, fires burn in part of the MSF hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz after it was hit by an air strike.
    In this photograph released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Oct. 3, 2015, fires burn in part of the MSF hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz after it was hit by an air strike.

    Afghan forces asked for U.S. air support to strike a National Directorate of Security building believed to be occupied by Taliban fighters. According to the report, the AC-130 air crew instead fired 211 shells at a hospital operated by MSF that was 450 meters away.

    Several factors contributed to the mistake.  The air crew launched more than an hour earlier than planned, missing out on a crucial brief that would normally include identifying no-strike areas such as the MSF hospital. Once in flight, the aircraft's electronic systems malfunctioned, eliminating the crew's ability to transmit video, send and receive email, or send and receive electronic messages. 

    The crew then believed it was the target of a missile, so they moved out of the aircraft's normal strike range, degrading the accuracy of the targeting system. That loss of accuracy appeared to cause the coordinates of the Taliban target to land on an open field. The crew visually located the "closest, largest" building to that field and, thinking that was the target, fired on it.

    MSF said the errors pinpointed in the U.S. report showed "gross negligence" on the part of U.S. forces. 

    FILE - A U.S. AC-130 gunship like the one pictured fired the shells at the hospital.
    FILE - A U.S. AC-130 gunship like the one pictured fired the shells at the hospital.

    Days before the attack, MSF had provided geographic coordinates of its hospital to U.S. military authorities. 

    The barrage on the hospital lasted 29 minutes before commanders realized the mistake, even as hospital staff members made 18 attempts to call or text U.S. and Afghan authorities about the attack as it was occurring.

    Many of the doctors and nurses at the hospital were killed instantly, and some patients who could not be moved to safety died in the ensuing flames from the attack.

    Within days of the October 3 incident, President Barack Obama called Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders, to apologize for the mistaken attack.  

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: MR.HARSHAN MENON from: KERALA STATE,INDIA
    March 18, 2016 10:23 AM

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    US Military Personnel should not be Punished for Afghan Hospital Attack as after all it was war.During war you expect such incidents.

    Have a nice day.

    Your's Sincerely,
    HARSHAN MENON

    by: John from: Earth
    March 18, 2016 9:09 AM
    Notice the language "most closely". That means the lowest level of service people will be punished. The true culprits for this fiasco will get promotions

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 18, 2016 8:02 AM
    Not even a slap on the wrist? .. They will be given letters of discipline that will be pulled in weeks or months? .. Their excuse for doing it? .. poorly trained?

    by: annymous from: usa
    March 18, 2016 6:17 AM
    a disgraceful decision to punish a person . this is a politically motivated decision rather than is made on fact. the army know that Talban is hiding among civilian. . it is not our mistake . the tragedy of the incidents is a result of the behavior of Talban . they hide among the civilian. why we are in Afghanistan?
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 18, 2016 5:28 PM
    America is in Afghanistan to avenge the 09-11-2001 Bun Laden al-Qaeda terrorist attack on America? .. The goal was to remove the Taliban government that had supported the al-Qaeda training bases from where Bin Laden planned and launched the al-Qaeda airplane attacks on America and destroy them? .. President Bush accomplished America's original goal, [but the Taliban reunited], and launched a guerrilla warfare counterattack that continues on to this day? .. America just doesn't have a workable anti-terrorist plan to defeat the Taliban or al-Qaeda terrorists? .. another war they began and couldn't finish?

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