On the 3rd of October earlier this year, at least 30 civilians were killed in an attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in the Afghan city of Kunduz.
Following the disaster, an internal investigation was called for to ascertain how the misconduct of the US military caused the horrific incident.
Initial findings from the internal investigation found that the MSF hospital had been mistaken for a government building under Taliban control.
Whilst initial reporting from the US government pointed to a retaliation strategy, the government retracted their earlier statement admitting to a calculated strike being behind the attack.
On Wednesday, US commander in Afghanistan, General John Campbell announced the findings, stating that the attack was “the direct result of avoidable human error, compounded by process and equipment failures.”
MSF has denounced the findings and openly condemned the report, calling for an “independent and impartial investigation into the attack”.
In the same report, MSF lambasted the campaign, stating “gross negligence” for the oversight, especially as the bombing continued to occur up to 17 minutes after being alerted that their aircraft was firing on a medical centre.
“The strike began at 2.08am,” Gen John Campbell 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.”
According to MSF, hospital staff made 18 attempts to call the US and Afghan authorities to stop the shelling.
Gen. Campbell said in a statement at the press conference: “The medical facility was misidentified as a target by US personnel who believed they were striking a different building several hundred metres away where there were reports of combatants.
“The personnel who requested the strike and those who executed it from the air did not undertake appropriate measures to verify that the facility was a legitimate military target.”
He added: “Based upon the information learned during the investigation, the report determined that the proximate cause of this tragedy was the direct result of avoidable human error, compounded by process and equipment failures.
“In addition the report found fatigue and a high operational tempo contributed to this tragedy,” he said.
The report also identified multiple failures in the system that contributed to the wrongful attack on the MSF centre. Campbell cited loss of electronic communication to the aircraft, a lack of brief before the task force took off and a broken system that failed to vet proposed targets against a no-strike list.
The General Director Christopher Stokes said in a statement: “It appears that 30 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people are being 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.”
“We have reviewed each of these failures and implemented corrections as appropriate. We have learned from this terrible incident … This was a tragic mistake. US forces would never intentionally strike a hospital or other protected facilities,” concluded Gen. Campbell.
Stokes added: “The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of US forces and violations of the rules of war. The destruction of a protected facility without verifying the target – in this case a functioning hospital full of medical staff and patients – cannot only be dismissed as individual human error or breaches of the US rules of engagement.
“MSF reiterates its call for an independent and impartial investigation into the attack on our hospital in Kunduz. Investigations of this incident cannot be left solely to parties to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
The US military has suspended all involved troops until disciplinary action has been determined.