The commander of American and coalition forces in Afghanistan says this weekend’s deadly American airstrike on a medical facility in Kunduz was requested by Afghan forces. Gen. John F. Campbell made the comments at a press conference earlier today, and told reporters that Afghan forces claimed to be taking heavy enemy fire from the facility, which was operated by the humanitarian-aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
“We have now learned that on Oct. 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces,” Campbell said, according to the Associated Press. “An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck. This is different from the initial reports, which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf.”
A previous statement made by the U.S. military claimed the airstrike was made at the request of American forces in the area who had come under attack. The shifting story was quickly condemned by Christopher Stokes, general director for MSF.
“The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” Stokes said, according to the AP. “There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”
Campbell, who claimed targeting buildings such as hospitals, schools, and houses of worship is generally forbidden, said an internal investigation is underway.
“If errors were committed we will acknowledge them,” Campbell said. “We’ll hold those responsible accountable and we’ll take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated.”
The incident comes amid heavy fighting in northern Afghanistan, where a resurgent Taliban has been causing major setbacks for coalition forces. According to the Washington Post, President Obama is considering abandoning his initial plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country before he leaves office in 2016, and may leave as many as 5,000 troops in Afghanistan indefinatly.
(Source: Assoicated Press)