Monday, May 02, 2016

AFGHANISTAN - Tragedy of Errors

"Pentagon:  Hospital bombing due to U.S. offensive strike to assist Afghan forces" PBS NewsHour 4/29/2016

 AC-130 Gunship


SUMMARY:  The Pentagon revealed that the bombing of an Afghan hospital occurred when U.S. forces preemptively fired to clear the way for an Afghan offensive.  U.S. and Afghan forces were not under fire when U.S. aircraft destroyed the hospital.  Hari Sreenivasan takes an in-depth look at the series of errors with Jamie McIntyre of the Washington Examiner.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The Pentagon laid out the key findings of its full investigation today, as well as the fallout affecting 16 service members.

Head of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel:

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, Commander, U.S. Central Command:  The investigation concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the rules of engagement in the law of armed conflict.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital last October in Kunduz, Afghanistan killed 42 people.  Of the 16 service members who were punished, one was a two-star general and some were specials ops forces.  They face administrative actions, but Votel maintained their actions didn't constitute a war crime.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL:  The label war crimes is typically reserved for intentional acts, intentionally targeting civilians or intentionally targeting protected objects or locations.

The investigation found that the incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors, process errors and equipment failures, and that none of the personnel knew they were striking a hospital.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Even though they didn't know they were hitting a hospital, the investigation found they made multiple fundamental and fatal errors.

For example, the AC-130 gunship's targeting system became misaligned after its crew attempted to avoid fire over Kunduz.  That resulted in their target appearing as an empty field, instead of a building filled with Taliban fighters firing on Afghan troops.  The crew then switched its focus to the hospital, thinking it was the original target, based on descriptions relayed from special forces on the ground.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL:  So the aircraft is looking at one location.  The ground force is thinking they're looking at another location.  There's no way to visually confirm that back and forth between them, and their discussions, as you look at the transcripts, don't add clarity to that.

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