Monday, May 30, 2016

HOSPITAL ATTACK - Report's Troubling Details

"Did Afghan troops manipulate the U.S. into bombing Doctors Without Borders hospital?" PBS NewsHour 5/25/2016


SUMMARY:  Last October, U.S. forces bombed an Afghan hospital in Kunduz, killing 42 people.  An Army inquiry last month found that the attack was an accident, but Matthieu Aikins of the Nation Institute blames Afghan troops who told the Americans that the hospital was a Taliban stronghold.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Aikins, Gary Solis of Georgetown University and Jeffrey Addicott of St. Mary's University.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  In October 2015 an American AC-130 Gunship pummeled the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, hitting what the crew believed to be a Taliban fighting position.

The plane rained artillery and other fire on the facility, killing 42 people, despite frantic calls from the group, known by its French acronym, MSF, to stop the attack.

Last month, an Army investigation found there was no intent by the Americans to destroy the hospital, either by the air crew or the American special forces on the ground who were calling in for fire.  The probe found that it was a targeting error born of confusion and miscommunication in the fog of war.

Sixteen soldiers were reprimanded, but no criminal charges were filed.

But a new report in “The New York Times Magazine” by Matthieu Aikins of the Nation Institute casts doubt on the motivations of the Afghan troops who told the Americans that the hospital was a Taliban stronghold.

I spoke with Aikins yesterday and with two former military attorneys.

I began by asking the reporter what may have motivated this attack.

MATTHIEU AIKINS, The Nation Institute:  From the extensive reporting that we did starting from November, as well as documents that are buried in the military's redacted report, there's evidence that Afghan forces may have provided an exact description that matched the hospital as a target, meaning that they intentionally targeted the hospital, leading to U.S. forces perhaps unintentionally striking the hospital as a result of that description.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, why would Afghan forces want to strike a hospital?

MATTHIEU AIKINS:  There's been a long-simmering tension between MSF and the Afghan government, basically a collision between two different world views, MSF, which sees itself as a neutral humanitarian medical organization that treats all sides to a conflict, regardless of who they are, and Afghan forces that have resented MSF treating what it views as its enemy.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So is there a widespread mistrust?

MATTHIEU AIKINS:  What we found, you know, when I went to Kunduz, was a resentment and a mistrust of MSF on the part of the Afghan forces.  They told me they thought that MSF was supporting the Taliban.

And this, you know, later led to what turned out to be false beliefs that MSF actually had been taken over and there were Taliban leadership inside the hospital at the time it was struck.

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