The buck stops somewhere else

Hey, that hospital we blew up in Kunduz? We may have blown it up, but it was only because other people asked us to…

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said today that Afghan forces who were under attack by the Taliban requested the U.S. airstrikes that resulted in 22 deaths at a hospital in Kunduz run by Doctors Without Borders.

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

Campbell said that information was different from initial reports that “indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the air strike was called on their behalf.”

Campbell did say that there are three investigations being conducted into the bombing and that if errors are uncovered “we’ll hold those responsible accountable.” Of course, nobody has any idea what “holding those responsible accountable” might mean; it could mean medals all around. But the news that it was Afghan forces who requested the strike and not US forces doesn’t do much to allay the most troubling of all the potential scenarios surrounding this incident: that the hospital was deliberately targeted. From the NYT article that reported on the bombing:

The hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked Afghan security forces.

It would be irresponsible to ascribe intent to anybody involved in this catastrophe before the investigations play themselves out, but the possibility that this attack was somehow deliberate is deeply troubling, and you can be sure that the Taliban will push this theory if they think it can help them win the propaganda war with Kabul.

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