It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded.
Shortly before General John Campbell, the commander of the US and Nato war in Afghanistan, testified to a Senate panel, the president of Doctors Without Borders – also known as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) – said the US and Afghanistan had made an “admission of a war crime”.
Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead.
“Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires,” Campbell told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday morning.
Three children died in the airstrike that came in multiple waves and burned patients alive in their beds.
The medical charity said the investigation, which can be set up at the request of a single state under the conventions, would gather facts and evidence from the US, Nato and Afghanistan.
“If we let this go, we are basically giving a blank cheque to any countries at war,” Joanne Liu, MSF international president said, calling on the relatively obscure international humanitarian fact-finding commission (IHFFC), to open the investigation.
It would be a first step, aimed to establish facts about the incident and the chain of command that led to the strike, MSF said. Only then would it decide whether to bring criminal charges for loss of life and damage.
The IHFFC’s president, Gisela Perren-Klingler, told the Guardian she had received MSF’s request for an investigation on Tuesday night and had already been in touch with the US and Afghan governments, offering the commission’s services.
But she added: “We have activated ourselves but we cannot go on mission without being asked in by a member state, and MSF is not a state.”
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
Federated States of Micronesia
State of Palestine
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
originally posted by: Irishhaf
God have mercy on this crew cause today's usaf leadership is going to throw the book at them.
(please not the air force will still have to investigate, this will not be quick, they have to figure out if the crew alone failed, or if it was at another level.)
But MSF intensified its pressure on the US by calling for an independent – and unprecedented – inquiry into the incident, arguing that the US, Nato and Afghan forces could not be relied on to investigate themselves.
“This was not just an attack on our hospital – it was an attack on the Geneva conventions. This cannot be tolerated,” said Liu.
International experts have told the Guardian that the question of whether an advance warning was given would be critical in determining if US forces had committed a violation of international humanitarian law.
The Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals after the second world war were followed by “50 years of silence on international law”, according to The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law by Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, a book published by MSF.
Attempts to prosecute international war crimes began to re-emerge in 1993, with the establishment of a special war crimes tribunal on Yugoslavia, and in 1994 with a war tribunal on the Rwanda genocide.
A meeting of diplomats in Italy produced the Rome Statute of 17 July 1998, which set up the International Criminal Court at the Hague. The United States is not party to the ICC, which so far has only tried war crimes suspects connected with “situations” in Africa. Earlier this year, a Palestinian delegation asked the court to investigate Israeli attacks in Gaza and elsewhere as potential war crimes.
Speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, the MSF international president, Joanne Liu, called for a non-prosecutorial inquiry by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, or IHFFC, a never-before-used investigative commission under the Geneva conventions.
The 3 October attack on the Médécins sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz killed 10 patients and 12 staff members of the group.
In a statement on Thursday, the medical charity, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said they were informed after Thursday’s “intrusion” that the tank was carrying investigators from a US-Nato-Afghan team which is investigating the attack.
“Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear,” MSF said.
Newton said the White House silence on the issue of whether the attack could constitute a war crime was appropriate.
“People say, ‘Why won’t the president just call it a war crime, why won’t the secretary of defense just call it a war crime, let’s be honest, that’s what it was’,” said Newton. “The answer is, because in the US military it is a separate offense – unlawful command influence – if higher-level political officials or military officials prejudge a case and start talking about it in public.”
“What actually happened on the ground? That’s the unanswered question.”
US military commanders in Afghanistan took 17 minutes to act after being warned by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that their aircraft was firing on a medical centre full of doctors and civilians, an internal investigation has found.
By the time officers made contact with the AC-130 gunship, which had mistaken the facility in Kunduz for a Taliban-controlled building several hundred metres away, it was too late. Thirty staff, patients and assistants were killed and 37 injured in one of the worst incidents of civilian casualties in the 14-year war.
The military’s findings were presented by Gen John Campbell, the US commander in Afghanistan. “The strike began at 2.08am,” he said. “At 2.20am an SOF [special operations forces] officer at Bagram [airbase] received a call from MSF advising that their facility was under attack. It took the headquarters and the US special operations commander until 2.37am to realise the fatal mistake. At that time the AC-130 had already ceased firing. The strike lasted for approximately 29 minutes. This is an example of human process error.”
He detailed a series of blunders that ended in tragedy. The aircraft took off without a normal mission brief or essential materials such as no-strike designations, which would have identified the location of the MSF centre.
During the flight, the onboard electronic systems malfunctioned, preventing command-and-control operations and limiting the ability to send email or video. In addition, as it arrived in Kunduz, it also mistakenly reported that the aircraft had been targeted by a missile, putting it off course, and in turn degrading the accuracy of some targeting systems.
Even when these were corrected, the crew remained “fixated” on the physical description of their original target, Campbell admitted, even though there were some “contradictory indicators”.