ACTION ALERT: War Crime? US Green Berets Admit Knowingly Killing Civilians in Kunduz Hospital
October 27, 2015 Associated Press and The Telegraph & CREDO and Daily Kos
After more than three weeks of shifting narratives and outright lies, the Pentagon has finally admitted that it was US Army Green Berets who requested the October 3 airstrike on the Doctors without Borders trauma centre in Afghanistan. The soldiers claimed they were aware it was a functioning hospital but believed Taliban fighters were inside. Even if there were evidence of this (and there is none) it is a crime to wantonly kill innocent civilians in an attempt to kill an enemy soldier.
A day before an American AC130 gunship attacked the hospital, a senior officer in the Green Beret unit wrote in a report that US forces had discussed the hospital with the country director of the medical charity group, presumably in Kabul, according to two people who have seen the document.
The attack left a mounting death toll, now up to 30 people.
Separately, in the days before the attack, "an official in Washington" asked Doctors without Borders "whether our hospital had a large group of Taliban fighters in it," spokesman Tim Shenk said in an email. "We replied that this was not the case. We also stated that we were very clear with both sides to the conflict about the need to respect medical structures."
Taken together, the revelations add to the growing possibility that US forces destroyed what they knew was a functioning hospital, which would be a violation of the international rules of war.
The Pentagon has said Americans would never have intentionally fired on a medical facility, and it is unclear why the Green Beret unit requested the strike -- and how such an attack was approved by the chain of command -- on coordinates widely known to have included a hospital.
Pentagon spokesman Maj Roger Cabiness declined to answer questions, saying in a statement that it would be "premature to draw any conclusions" before the three investigations into the attack are complete.
The US has determined "that the reports of civilian casualties were credible, and we continue to work with the government of Afghanistan to fully identify the victims," said Brig Gen Wilson Shoffner, a NATO spokesman, in a statement.
US and NATO investigations, he said, "continue to look at a series of potential human errors, failures of process and technical malfunctions that may have contributed to the mistaken strike on the hospital."
"MSF report that they have personnel in the trauma center," the Oct 2 report by a senior Green Beret officer from 3rd Special Forces Group said, according to two people who have seen it.
MSF is the abbreviation for the group's French name, Medicins sans Frontiers. The report adds that the trauma center was under the control of insurgents, said the sources, who would not be quoted by name because they were not authorised to discuss it publicly.
The coordinates of the hospital were sent to "all friendly forces," the report said, noting that among the US objectives for the next day was to "clear the trauma centre" of enemy forces.
Doctors without Borders officials say the hospital was not under Taliban control and that no gunmen were operating from within the compound -- about six city blocks square with the one-story hospital situated some two blocks back behind a 12-foot wall -- when the A130 gunship made five passes, firing for an hour.
Another hospital run by Afghanistan's health ministry, a short distance away, had been overrun by the Taliban when insurgents seized the city, a senior US defence official said.
The new information raises the possibility that some elements of the US intelligence and military apparatus had confused the two hospitals. But other evidence argues against such confusion.
The AP has reported that American special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on the Doctors without Borders hospital, including indications it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity. The intelligence gathering occurred as the US was supporting the Afghan effort to retake Kunduz, which included heavy fighting by Green Berets.
The Green Berets had asked for Air Force intelligence-gathering flights over the hospital, and both Green Berets and Air Force personnel were aware it was a protected medical facility, the records show, according to the two people who have seen the documents.
The analysts' dossier included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official who is familiar with some of the documents.
The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control centre and may have housed heavy weapons.
After the attack, some US analysts assessed it was justified, the records show, and one report said 16 enemies had been killed, the two sources say. Those deaths were said to include the Pakistani, who the US believed was working for his country's Inter-Service Intelligence directorate.
No evidence has surfaced publicly suggesting a Pakistani died in the attack, and Doctors without Borders says none of its staff was Pakistani.
Gen John Campbell, commander of American forces in Afghanistan, has said that "a special operations unit that was in close vicinity ... was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires".
Doctors without Borders denies that any fire was coming from its compound. And even if it was, it is unclear why any US forces outside those walls could not have moved to safer ground.
The organisation has said it was frantically calling Kabul and Washington during the attack, trying to make the US aware of what was unfolding as patients died in their beds.
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Justice for Doctors Without Borders
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In the middle of the night, a US military plane "repeatedly and very precisely" bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital filled with doctors, nurses and wounded patients in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
The airstrike killed twelve Doctors Without Borders staff members and ten patients, including three children, and injured scores more. Some patients literally burned alive in their hospital beds.
The human cost of this crime far exceeds the staff and patients killed in the airstrike. The hospital, which in 2014 treated 22,000 and performed more than 5,900 surgical procedures, was the only free trauma care hospital in northern Afghanistan, where the Afghan military and the Taliban are currently engaged in heavy fighting. Doctors Without Borders has now closed the hospital.
So far, the Pentagon has only released incomplete and contradictory accounts of what happened and why.
We cannot allow this horrific act to be swept under the rug, and we can't trust the same people who may have participated in a war crime to investigate it. We need an independent investigation.