Afghan forces called for air strike in Kunduz, says U.S. general

An air strike killed 22 people in an Afghan hospital run by aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders

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Afghan forces had asked for U.S. air support while fighting the Taliban in Kunduz shortly before an air strike resulted in the deaths of civilians there, the American commander of international forces in Afghanistan said on Monday.

U.S. Army General John Campbell fell short of squarely acknowledging U.S. responsibility for an air strike that killed 22 people in an Afghan hospital run by aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, on Saturday.

MSF reiterated its call for an independent investigation into the incident, though the White House said on Monday it was confident ongoing probes by the U.S. military, NATO, and Afghan security officials would provide a full account of the circumstances surrounding the strike.

Campbell said U.S. forces were not under direct fire in the incident and the air strike had not been called on their behalf, contrary to previous statements from the U.S. military.

“We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces,” Campbell said in a briefing with reporters. “An air strike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several civilians were accidentally struck.”

In a statement on Monday, MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said Campbell’s comments amounted to trying to pass responsibility for the strike to the Afghan government.

“The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs,” the statement said. “The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack.”

Responding to earlier calls by MSF for an international probe, Campbell did not close the door to an outside investigation.
“If there’s other investigations out there that need to go on, I’ll make sure that we coordinate those as well,” Campbell said.

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