Strike on Afghanistan hospital 'Was not a war crime' Pentagon
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The Pentagon has approved USD5.7 million towards the reconstruction of the destroyed hospital in Kunduz and has set aside an unspecified amount to make condolence payments to 170 individuals and families victims of tragic attack last October, which a top American general on Friday said was caused by a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures.
“US Forces-Afghanistan leaders have offered their sympathies and provided condolence payments to more than 170 individuals and families affected by this tragedy. These modest payments are not designed to compensate the victims or place a value on their lives, but are a gesture of sympathy,” General Joseph L Votel, Commander of the US Central Command told reporters at a news conference here.
“The Department of Defense has approved USD5.7 million in funds to construct a comparable structure in Kunduz that is suitable for use as a medical facility,” Votel told Pentagon reporters at a news conference as he revealed details of a months long investigation into the tragic incident that killed a large number of people on October 3, 2015.
The White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US President Barack Obama has been briefed on the report.
“The conclusion of the investigation is that there were human error that causes tragedy. Now, that human error was compounded by systems and procedural failures. The Department of Defense has announced a set of steps that will be taken to provide accountability for those who were involved,” he said.
“The Department of Defense has also laid out some specific reforms moving forward that will prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring again in Afghanistan or anywhere else. And, again, all of this is consistent with the priority that President Obama places on avoiding civilian casualties,” he added.
“Our adversaries certainly don't go to these lengths. In some cases, our adversaries target civilian populations. But these are the kinds of reforms that are consistent with our values as a country and are consistent with the priorities that are established by the Commander-in-Chief,” Earnest said.
Votel said the investigation concluded that the personnel involved did not know they were striking a medical facility. The intended target was an insurgent-controlled site which was approximately 400 meters from the Doctors Without Borders Trauma Center, he said.
The investigation found that an AC-130 gunship air crew in support of a US Special Forces element that was supporting an Afghan partner ground force misidentified and struck the Doctors Without Borders Trauma Center, he added.
Votel said the investigation determined that all members of both the ground force and the AC-130 air crew were unaware that the aircraft was firing on a medical facility throughout the engagement. The investigation ultimately concluded that this tragic incident was caused by a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures.
Leading up to this incident, U Special Operations forces and their Afghan special operations partners had been engaged in intense fighting for several consecutive days and nights in Kunduz, and had repelled heavy and sustained enemy attacks, he noted.
The ground force was fatigued from days of fighting, still engaged with an aggressive enemy, and running low on supplies, the general said.
In response to this urgent tactical situation, the AC-130 aircraft and crew launched from the space 69 minutes earlier than originally planned. As a result, the crew did not get all the preparatory information they would normally have received before a mission, to include identification of no-strike areas.
“Their ability to receive this information while in flight was lost when one of their satellite radios failed. Shortly after arriving on the scene, the aircraft was fired on by a surface-to-air missile, and subsequently moved several miles away from the city center. From this distance, the air crew received the grid coordinates of a Taliban-controlled building,” he said.
“When the air crew attempted to plot the coordinates of this enemy building, the system directed them to an open field, which was obviously not the correct location. The air crew attempted to find the intended target in the nearby area. Instead, they found the Doctors Without Borders Trauma Center that generally matched the physical description of the building relayed over the radio by the ground force,” Votel said.
“At this point, the air crew mistakenly believed that the Trauma Center was the Taliban-controlled building, which was about a quarter- mile away. The investigation found that throughout the engagement that followed, the ground force commander and the air crew mistakenly believed that the air crew and aircraft was firing on the intended target,” he said
Votel said the investigation identified 16 US service members, whose conduct warranted consideration for appropriate administrative or disciplinary action, including a general officer. Actions were taken against 12 of these. The actions included suspension and removal from command, letters of reprimand, formal counseling and extensive retraining, he said.
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