Doctors Without Borders, the international humanitarian-aid organization, is accusing the U.S. military of war crimes, after a hospital in the war-ravaged city of Kunduz, Afghanistan, was bombed, killing 22 people, including medical staff and patients.
The situation is being further criticized by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) because of the contradictory statements from the Pentagon in the wake of the deadly airstrike. Initially, officials stated American soldiers on the ground had requested the bombing in the area because they were under attack from Taliban forces. However, the explanation was revised to say Afghan forces were the ones who requested air support from the U.S. in the area where the only trauma hospital in the area was located.
General John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told reporters Monday that initial information indicated the airstrike was called to protect U.S. forces, according to CNN.
“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 U.S. forces. An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several innocent civilians were accidentally struck.”
Not only Doctors Without Borders, but the international community at large, expressed outrage at the airstrike that hit the hospital in Afghanistan — which is considered a safe area during a conflict — and killed 12 medical staff members and at least 10 patients, three of them children, the organization. In addition, 37 other people were injured, according to the reports from the non-profit agency that provides free medical care in war zones and during health emergencies such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
In a scathing statement, Doctors Without Borders directly blamed the U.S. military for the deaths of the victims, who were all Afghans, and accused them of war crimes. General Director Christopher Stokes said in a statement that the group is assuming that a war crime was committed and only a full, independent investigation will be acceptable, according to NPR.
“We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched. We condemn this attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.”
Moreover, in an interview Sunday with the NPR program All Things Considered, Doctors Without Borders’ Executive Director Jason Cone described the tragedy as the “darkest couple of days in our organization’s history.”
Cone also called the attack on the hospital in Afghanistan a war crime and insisted this was a known building to American forces operating in the area and is “both a grave violation of humanitarian law, and can rise to the level of a war crime until we have an independent investigation that tells us otherwise.”
Afghanistan’s Interior Minister said the hospital was a target because terrorists had been allowed to enter and take refuge within. However, Cone completely denies the accusations and argued Doctors Without Borders doesn’t let militants enter the facilities they run and militarize them.
“That would be a red line for us. It puts both our patients and our staff at risk, and we would never accept that under any circumstances.”
In the wake of the deadly attack in Afghanistan, Doctors Without Borders said it will be leaving Kunduz, the New York Times reported. This will leave residents of Kunduz and nearby areas with little access to medical care. Many of the charity group’s physicians have relocated to other hospitals to continue treating victims of the conflict.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, during a briefing Monday, defended the U.S. military, saying no other country in the world goes to greater lengths and places a higher premium on avoiding civilian casualties than the United States.
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