Afghan forces requested Kunduz airstrike: Campbell
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The US airstrike that killed at least 22 people at a hospital in northern Kunduz province was requested by Afghan forces who reported being under fire from Taliban, the top American and NATO commander in Kabul said on Monday.
“We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from US Forces,” Gen. John Campbell made the statement at a hastily arranged Pentagon news conference.
He said an airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck,” Campbell told reporters at the early morning news conference.
He said this was different from initial reports which indicated that US Forces were threatened and that the air strike was called on their behalf, he said, adding that he had ordered a thorough investigation into the tragic incident and the investigation was ongoing.
Afghanistan has also ordered a separate investigation.
“If errors were committed we'll acknowledge them. We'll hold those responsible accountable and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated,” he said.
The US military, he asserted, took extraordinary steps to avoid harm to civilians. However, the Taliban have purposeful chose a fight from within a heavily urbanized area, purposely placing civilians in harms way, he alleged.
Campbell, who is Washington to testify before a Congressional Committee on Tuesday, said he would ensure that the investigation was transparent and open.
In addition to the US and Afghans, NATO too is carrying out its own investigation into the air strikes at a hospital in Kunduz that resulted in a large number of casualties.
“Afghans asked for air support from a special forces team that we have on the ground providing train advise and assist in conduce. The initial statement that went out was that US forces were under direct fire contact. What I'm doing is correcting that statement here,” he said.
Responding to Campbell’s comments, Christopher Stokes, the general director of Doctors Without Borders rejected his statement as an attempt to shift blame for the US airstrike to the Afghan government and said the US remained responsible for targets it hit.
“Today the US government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff,” he said in a statement. “Their description of the attack keeps changing — from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government.
“The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition.”
He said there could be no justification for “this horrible attack” and said the discrepancies in the US and Afghan accounts meant a “full transparent independent investigation” was needed.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.