Top General in Afghanistan: U.S. Strike on Hospital a Mistake; Lawmakers React
WASHINGTON, D.C. —
It was a mistake. That's the admission Tuesday by the U.S. military in talking about the airstrike of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. At least 22 doctors, staff and patients died in the airstrike.
General John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces there testified on Capitol Hill today and made the dramatic statement, "to be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a U-S decision made within the U-S chain of command. The hospital was mistakenly struck."
The admission of fault was followed by a suggestion that the U.S. change its rules of engagement. Why did a U.S. warplane bomb the hospital?
Sen. John McCain was among the first to ask about procedures on that day, "Is it true that the strike was requested by Afghan forces on the ground?"
"Even though the Afghans requested that support, it still has to go through a rigorous U.S. procedure to enable fire," explained Gen. Campbell.
Some reports indicate there was fighting near the hospital. Others indicate Taliban fighters may have been using the hospital in its background to avoid taking enemy fire.
Doctors Without Borders says it had routinely provided the military with its GPS coordinates so that it wouldn't ever be targeted. They claim it appears intentional and are calling the bombing a war crime.
"It's just a tragedy of monumental proportions that this happened. It's just heart breaking. Things like that do happen in war and it's not possible to be perfect in what you do when you apply military force and I'm sure nobody intended this, but it's still, it's just heartbreaking to see," said Alabama senator Jeff Sessions.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal added, "The potential violations of our code and rules of engagement need to be seriously considered and maybe those rules need to be revisited."
The White House today laid out three separate investigations being conducted by the Justice Department, NATO & a joint investigation by U.S. and Afghan military forces.
"The president has called for the kind of investigations that will yield a full accounting of what transpired," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
"I can't ask for more than that but it was very tragic. I would point out that it was the Taliban that caused this issue to arise," replied Sen. McCain.
Hospital officials say they alerted both Afghan and coalition force leaders after the initial bombing but claim the airstrike continued for at least 30 more minutes. They say that's further evidence that this can't be "brushed aside as a mere mistake".
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) spoke with Sinclair after the admission, stating "It's clear, here we are three months before a continued draw-down of our troops, the General in charge of our forces is being asked for quote, 'options.' Most of us who study history know you develop a strategy to achieve your goals, rather than, quote, 'options.' Because what happens with options is that an administration like this will always choose the least involvement of troops and assets."