Top general in Afghanistan: US strike on hospital a mistake

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Resolute Support Mission Commander Gen. John Campbell arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Situation in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. forces attacked a hospital in northern Afghanistan last weekend, killing at least 22 people, despite “rigorous” U.S. military procedures designed to avoid such mistakes, the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

Gen. John F. Campbell told a Senate committee that Afghan forces requested air support Saturday while engaged in combat with Taliban fighters in the city of Kunduz, communicating with U.S. special operations troops at the scene. Those U.S. forces were in contact with the AC-130 gunship that fired on the hospital, Campbell said.

“To be clear, the decision to provide (airstrikes) was a U.S. decision, made within the U.S. chain of command,” Campbell said. “The hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell said he could not provide more details about what happened, including who may have failed to follow procedures for avoiding attacks on hospitals. He said he must await the outcome of multiple investigations.

The medical clinic that was struck was operated by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

Campbell had disclosed on Monday that Afghan troops requested the airstrike.

“Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous U.S. procedure to enable fires to go on the ground,” Campbell said. “Fires” means weapons fire — in this case howitzer or other fire from the AC-130 gunship.

Anti-war protesters sat in the front row of Tuesday’s hearing with red coloring, depicting blood, on their faces. They carried signs that read: “Healthcare not warfare,” ”Afghan hospital bombing is a war crime” and “Kunduz victims: RIP.”

Christopher Stokes, general director of Doctors Without Borders, has said “there can be no justification for this horrible attack” and that it was critical to conduct “a full transparent independent investigation.”

Campbell also testified that he has provided his superiors with options for altering President Barack Obama’s plan for reducing the U.S. troop presence after 2016 from its current level of about 9,800 to an embassy-based security operation of about 1,000. He said conditions in Afghanistan have changed significantly since Obama approved that plan in 2014.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday the Pentagon is providing options to the White House and Obama will be making decisions about future force levels later this fall.

Kunduz has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent days.

A Taliban assault on Kunduz took Afghan authorities by surprise and embarrassed President Ashraf Ghani’s administration. The Taliban, who attacked on multiple fronts, held the city for three days before a government counter-offensive began. Afghan forces have retaken Kunduz, an important city on the Tajikistan border, a hub for drug and gun smuggling to and from Central Asian countries.

___

Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s