Obama apologises to MSF chief, condoles with Ghani
WASHINGTON/KABUL (Pajhwok): President Barack Obama on Wednesday apologised to the medical charity Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) after a US airstrike bombed its hospital in northern Kunduz province, the White House said.
The air strike on the MSF-run trauma centre in Kunduz City killed 22 people, including three children, the group said, demanding an international probe into the deadly airstrike, slammed as a possible war crime.
Obama also telephoned his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani on the mistaken raid. While expressing his condolences to Ghani over the loss of innocent civilians , he apologised to the MSF president for the deadly strike on the hospital, his spokesman said.
“This morning from the Oval Office, Obama spoke by telephone with MSF President Dr. Joanne Liu to apologise and express his condolences for the MSF staff and patients who were killed and injured,” the White House press secretary told reporters.
Josh Earnest said Obama assured Dr. Liu that the Department of Defense investigation currently underway would provide a transparent, thorough and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident.
If necessary, the president would implement changes that would make tragedies like that one less likely to occur in the future, Earnest said giving a readout of the telephone call.
“After completing that call, Obama telephoned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to express his condolences for the loss of innocent life in that incident,” he added.
“The president commended the bravery of Afghan national defense and security forces in securing Kunduz and noted he looked forward to continuing to work closely with Ghani, and the Afghan government to support their efforts to provide security for the Afghans,” he continued.
Obama also reiterated his commitment that the US had offered up publicly, that the Department of Defense would conduct a transparent, thorough and objective investigation.
“This is consistent with something you've heard the president say in a variety of circumstances, and that is that the United States, when we make a mistake, we're honest about it, we own up to it, we apologise where necessary, as the president did in this case and we implement the kinds of changes that make it less likely that those kinds of mistakes will occur in the future,” he said.
The president has made clear that the three investigations, particularly the one being conducted by the Department of Defense, will be transparent, thorough and objective.
In a press release , the MSF sought an international probe into the deadly airstrike. The US often refers to three separate investigations by the US military, NATO and Afghan officials, but stressed the need for an international inquiry.
"We cannot rely on an internal military investigation," Doctors Without Borders (MSF) chief Joanne Liu told reporters, insisting that an "international humanitarian fact-finding commission" should probe the bombing.
"This was not just an attack on our hospital, it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated," Liu said. Liu's remarks come a day after General John Campbell, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said the "hospital was mistakenly struck" when Afghan officials called for the raid.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would welcome all impartial investigations which could help to determine the facts behind the bombing of the hospital and to try to make sure such tragedies were not repeated.
The ICRC was reacting to a call by Medecins Sans Frontieres for the activation of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, a body which was set up under an Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, but which has yet to be used.
"We have always been supportive of the IHFFC. If it can help to clarify the facts surrounding this tragic incident which led to the deaths of medical staff and patients in a health care facility, which should be protected under the laws of armed conflict, that would be a positive development," said Dr Helen Durham, the ICRC’s Director of International Law and Policy.
An IHFFC investigation could be complementary to those being conducted by the United States, NATO and potentially Afghanistan, she added.
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