Strike on Afghan hospital last year not a war crime: US military
WASHINGTON – A US military investigation has concluded that a deadly air strike in Afghanistan last year that destroyed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders did not amount to a war crime but was caused by a number of factors, including human errors.
Forty-two people were killed and 37 were wounded during an Oct. 3 strike that destroyed a hospital run by the international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.
“The investigation concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict, however, the investigation did not conclude that these failures amounted to a war crime,” General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters on Friday.
Votel said it was not a war crime because none of the service members were aware that they were striking a hospital.
The report into the deadly air strike said that condolence payments had been made to more than 170 individuals and families and $5.7 million had been approved to reconstruct the MSF facility.
Votel said that $3,000 had been paid for those injured, and $6,000 for those killed.
Votel added that the investigation found that the incident was caused by “unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures.”
The report added that fatigue and “high operational tempo” were also factors.
Votel said that even though there were less U.S. forces on the ground compared to previous years, he was comfortable with the ability of the military to evaluate risk factors.
Roughly 9,800 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, but under the current plan that will fall to 5,500 troops from 2017 for training and counter-terrorism operations.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that the U.S. military has taken disciplinary action against 16 service members over the air strike, including a general.
The report said that General John Campbell, who was then head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, took action against 12 personnel.
“The actions included suspension and removal from command, letters of reprimand, formal counseling and extensive retraining,” the report said.
Five personnel who returned to the United States were investigated by Votel.
“(General) Votel took action with respect to four of these five personnel, including four letters of reprimand and admonishment, and boards to evaluate the flight certification of three aircrew members,” the report added.
MSF, known as Doctors Without Borders in English, has in the past publicly cast doubt on the idea that the strike could have been a mistake but did not immediately comment on the investigation published on Friday. –Reuters