Doctors Without Borders have said that an airstrike carried out by the US military, originally intended to eliminate a Taliban threat, constitutes a war crime after the bombing hit a hospital, killing 22 people.
The hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, run by the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders was bombarded by US airstrikes early on Saturday morning, killing 12 members of staff including a number of doctors. 10 patients were also killed, including 3 children. Among those killed was the Afghan head of the hospital, Abdul Sattar.
The US military in Afghanistan issued a statement acknowledging that they carried out the airstrikes, claiming that they were conducted “against individuals threatening the force” and conceded that “the strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” The content of this statement and the term “collateral damage” used to describe those who died in the attacks has sparked outrage from many people worldwide and caused Doctors Without Borders to retaliate with their own version of events. According to Doctors Without Borders, there were no suspected terrorists or anyone with militant involvement inside the hospital during the time of the attacks. No suspected terrorists were killed in the attack, which has made the Doctors Without Borders organisation, internationally known as MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres), question the legality and reasoning behind the airstrike and has lead to them calling for an independent inquiry to take place. A spokesperson for MSF has stated: “Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body as relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.”
MSF has said that the bombing is in clear violation of international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime against the laws of humanity. However, Charlie Dunlap, a former Deputy Judge Advocate General for the US Air Force, refutes these “war crime” claims. “I don’t think we know yet. What surprises me about what Doctors Without Borders is saying — an organization I previously had a lot of respect for — is they’re making conclusions before the facts have even been gathered. In war zones there’s a lot of complexity about the application of force and about what’s going on on the ground. We’ve all heard about the chaos, and fog and friction of war. And that’s what’s going on. We need to assemble the facts before we start making very, very serious accusations against people.” Dunlap then added: “it’s not a war crime if people are acting reasonably and doing the best they can in what we would all agree would be a very chaotic and difficult situation”.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan issued a statement: “We anticipate having the results of this initial assessment in a matter of days. Additionally, the U.S. military has opened a formal investigation, headed by a General Officer, to conduct a thorough and comprehensive inquiry.” However this statement does not sit well with MSF, as they’re calling for an independent body to look into the attacks, not NATO, the US military, or the White House, all of which are suspected to have had some form of involvement in the airstrikes.
However The White House is still looking for answers and are currently investigating the circumstances of the attack. US President Barack Obama has released a statement, offering condolences to the charity and the families of those killed in the attacks from Americans.”The Department of Defence has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy. I expect a full accounting of the facts and circumstances and a comprehensive inquiry to take place over the coming days.”