New Problems with DOD’s Médecins Sans Frontières Story

Count me as thoroughly unimpressed by DOD’s explanation of what its almost two month long investigation into the attack on Médecins Sans Frontières’ hospital in Kunduz showed.

Don’t get me wrong: I still think this explanation — that the Afghans did knowingly attack the hospital, but that we didn’t follow procedure and so became willing dupes in that attack — remains most likely. But DOD’s explanation raises new questions for me (and clearly for some of the journalists at the briefing). Here’s the video and transcript of today’s press conference.

What do the Afghans say happened?

Back on October 5, General John Campbell said there would be three investigations: DOD’s, NATO’s, and an Afghan one.

I’ve got both U.S. 15-6 investigation, I’ve got a NATO investigation and the Afghans will be conducting an investigation.

Today, he suggested there were just two: his, and a joint NATO-Afghan one.

In addition to the U.S. national investigation, a NATO and Afghan partner combined civilian casualty assessment team, or CCAT, also conducted an investigation.

Campbell says these two investigations came to “generally consistent” conclusions, which is funny because in the days after the attack the Afghans were perfectly willing to say they targeted the hospital intentionally.

What the Afghans say, or would say, if they were conducting their own investigation, is key, given some of the ambiguity in this description Campbell gave.

During the evening of October 2nd, Afghan SOF advised the U.S. SOF commander that they intended to conduct a clearing operation that night. This included a former national director of security, or NDS, headquarters building they believed was occupied by insurgents. The Afghans requested U.S. close air support as they conducted their clearing operation. The U.S. SOF commander agreed to have the support on standby. He remained at the PCOP compound during the operation and was beyond the visual range of either the [National Director of Security] headquarters or the MSF trauma center as he monitored the progress of his Afghan counterparts.

If the operation only “included” NDS, did it also “include” MSF? As the WaPo pointed out at the presser, DOD had already hit NDS.

Q: Yes. (inaudible) — Washington Post. A few hours before the MSF strike, an NDS building and buildings surrounding were actually struck by U.S. airstrikes. So the location was totally known. How do you — how do you account for this discrepancy a few hours later? The coordinate shift, and as you say, the MSF hospital was mistaken for the NDS building when just a few hours earlier, there had been an attack, had been — (inaudible) — there and had a strike in that area.

GEN. SHOFFNER: The investigation found that the U.S. special operations forces commander did rely on information provided by the Afghan partners on the location of the NDS compound. However, the investigation determined that those grid coordinates given by the Afghan forces to that NDS compound were correct.

And per Campbell’s statement, the Afghan description of the target matched the MSF hospital.

The physical description of the NDS headquarters building provided by the Afghan SOF to the U.S. SOF commander roughly matched the description of the MSF trauma center as seen by the aircrew.

And SOF relied on their description.

The investigation also found that the U.S. SOF commander relied primarily upon information provided by Afghan partners and was unable to adequately distinguish between the NDS headquarters building at the MSF Trauma Center.

Reporter Lynn O’Donnell asked about earlier Afghan admissions they had targeted MSF.

The other thing that interests me about this is that Afghan officials have said all along that the hospital — they specifically referred to the hospital as they command and control center for the insurgents. So you know, when did the NDS come into this? In the process of making the decision whether or not to continue with the attack, when does the NDS come into this?

In response, flack Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner (Campbell didn’t respond to the questions from the press) gave a bullshit answer, one relying on what appears to be a substitution of two separate Afghan and NATO investigations into one.

To the second part of your question, I won’t speak for Minister (Stanikzine ?), but I will point out that on the civilian casualty assessment team investigation that was done, that wasn’t just a U.S. investigation. It was a NATO investigation. The members of the team consisted of coalition partners, U.S. and non-U.S. It consisted of seven Afghans that were appointed by President Ghani.

On the civilian casualty assessment team, and I need to point out the purpose of that was different from the 15-6. It was intentionally narrow in purpose. It was designed to determine the basic facts and then to validate whether or not these civilian casualties had occurred. It did that. And the results of the civilian casualty assessment team report informed the 15-6 investigation.

It seems very likely DOD reframed the investigations such that what the Afghans admitted, by themselves, back in October, would not make it into any official investigation.

What happened to the US TAA role?

On October 5, Campbell insisted US SOF was only involved in a Train, Advise, and Assist role (which is what the Administration has said they were doing).

GEN. CAMPBELL: What I said was that the Afghans asked for air support from a special forces team that we have on the ground providing train, advise and assist in Kunduz.

He said that in spite of contemporary, DOD-sourced reporting making it clear it wasn’t the case.

Today, he not only admitted US forces were fighting but offered the extent of their fighting as part of an explanation.

By October 3rd, U.S. SOF had remained at the PCOP compound longer than intended in continued support of Afghan forces. As a result, by the early morning hours of October 3rd, U.S. SOF at the PCOP compound had been engaged in heavy fighting for nearly five consecutive days and nights.

I’m sure they were toast, don’t get me wrong. But why did Campbell try to hide this detail back in October, when he was walking back Secretary Ash Carter’s claim that US forces ordered the strike?

How did all the recording devices on the plane misfunction?

It’s remarkable that all the recording devices on the plane “misfunctioned.” [See below for clarification.]

During the flight, the electronic systems onboard the aircraft malfunctioned, preventing the operation of an essential command and control capability and eliminating the ability of aircraft to transmit video, send and receive e-mail or send and receive electronic messages. This is an example of technical failure.

As well as its sensors.

U.S. SOF commander provided the aircraft with the correct coordinates to the NDS headquarters building, the intended target of the Afghan SOF. The green 1 depicts the location of the NDS compound. Again, this was the building that the U.S. SOF commander intended to strike. But when the aircrew entered the coordinates into their fire control systems, the coordinates correlated to an open field over 300 meters from the NDS headquarters. The yellow 2 on the chart depicts the location of the open field.

This mistake happened because the aircraft was several miles beyond its normal orbit and its sensors were degraded at that distance.

Pretty remarkable that DOD has such a clear idea of what happened when, even though all the equipment they would use to determine that failed.

The question is all the more important given a discrepancy between the DOD narrative and MSF’s: Timing.

Campbell said the attack lasted only 29 minutes, and ended as soon as SOF’s commander realized his mistake (how did the pilots find out without fully functioning communications equipment?).

The strike began at 2:08 a.m. At 2:20 a.m., a SOF officer at Bagram received a call from MSF, advising that their facility was under attack. It took the headquarters and the U.S. special operations commander until 2:37 a.m. to realize the fatal mistake. At that time, the AC-130 had already ceased firing. The strike lasted for approximately 29 minutes.

MSF said the attack lasted an hour.

According to all accounts the US airstrikes started between 2.00am and 2.08am on 3 October.

[snip]

It is estimated that the airstrikes lasted approximately one hour, with some accounts saying the strikes continued for one hour and fifteen minutes, ending approximately 3am–3.15am.

Admittedly, MSF’s far more detailed timeline did not describe calls from Kunduz to DOD, but from Kabul.

– At 2.19am, a call was made from MSF representative in Kabul to Resolute Support in Afghanistan informing them that the hospital had been hit in an airstrike

– At 2.20am, a call was made from MSF representative in Kabul to ICRC informing them that the hospital had been hit in an airstrike

– At 2.32am a call was made from MSF Kabul to OCHA Civil Military (CivMil) liaison in Afghanistan to inform of the ongoing strikes

– At 2.32am a call was made by MSF in New York to US Department of Defense contact in Washington informing of the airstrikes

– At 2.45am an SMS was received from OCHA CivMil in Afghanistan to MSF in Kabul confirming that the information had been passed through “several channels”

– At 2.47am, an SMS was sent from MSF in Kabul to Resolute Support in Afghanistan informing that one staff was confirmed dead and many were unaccounted for

– At 2.50am MSF in Kabul informed Afghan Ministry of Interior at Kabul level of the airstrikes. Afghan Ministry of Interior replied that he would contact ground forces

– At 2.52am a reply was received by MSF in Kabul from Resolute Support stating “I’m sorry to hear that, I still do not know what happened”

– At 2.56am an SMS was sent from MSF in Kabul to Resolute Support insisting that the airstrikes stop and informing that we suspected heavy casualties

– At 2.59am an SMS reply was received by MSF in Kabul from Resolute Support saying ”I’ll do my best, praying for you all”

– At 3.04am an SMS was sent to Resolute Support from MSF in Kabul that the hospital was on fire

– At 3.07am an SMS was sent from MSF in Kabul to OCHA CivMil that the hospital was on fire

– At 3.09am an SMS was received by MSF in Kabul from OCHA CivMil asking if the incoming had stopped

– At 3.10am and again at 3.14am, follow up calls were made from MSF New York to the US Department of Defense contact in Washington regarding the ongoing airstrikes

– At 3.13am an SMS was sent from MSF in Kabul to OCHA CivMil saying that incoming had stopped

Note the call between MSF and SOF mentioned by DOD does not appear on MSF’s log, nor does DOD say where it came from. That is, both timelines are inconsistent. DOD’s timeline should fairly raise questions about MSF’s timeline.

But DOD sure doesn’t want to answer questions about this apparent inconsistency when called on it.

Q: Jim Miklaszewski from NBC News. General, Doctors Without Borders, which has proven to be a pretty reliable source in regard to what happened there in Kunduz, said that they made at least two phone calls, one just prior to and one during the airstrike, to the Pentagon. And we’ve been told that that information was relayed from Joint Staff to the NMCC that they were under attack.

Did that information ever reach the operators there in the battlefield?

GEN. SHOFFNER: What I’d like to do is, to better answer that question, just briefly review the sequence of events leading up to the issue at hand. Approximately 12 minutes after the firing commenced, Doctors Without Borders called to report the attack. Unfortunately, by the time U.S. forces realized the mistake, the aircraft had stopped firing.

What DOD is not telling us is who communicated the troops on the ground and in the plane when. Would that focus too much attention on the rather incredible claim that all the plane’s recording equipment failed?

Or rather, malfunctioned. While Campbell says this was a technical failure, he doesn’t really explain that part of it.

[Clarification: As Lemon Slayer notes, this is probably not all communications but instead just the plane’s data link. They still should have had voice communication. I agree, though I also think DOD wanted to leave the impression there were no comms because the likelihood there were voice comms raises more questions, from the claim the plane left on an emergency deployment then got rerouted without any vetting of its mission, such as the fact that it didn’t ask questions about why it was attacking a field, such as the likelihood (which Lemon Slayer notes) that there should be voice recording then. In other words, if they have voice comms–and they probably do–then they have more information then they let on and less excuse for the purported confusion here.]

Again, it’s not just me not buying this–it’s the beat journalists too, many of whom asked precisely the right questions. And all the flacks did in response was to say some involved didn’t abide by rules of engagement and that the US would never attack a hospital intentionally.

Would the US playing willing dupe for allies doing just that?

Update: They decided they had to hide Afghan side of investigation after first one was done.

Yesterday, DOD said it took three weeks to conduct an investigation.

They spent a full three weeks completing their report

Three weeks from when Campbell announced the investigation on October 5 would have been October 26 — a month before the report was released. But remember that Campbell brought in a two-star General on October 24, when the first three week period was coming to a close.

With an initial military assessment confirming civilian casualties in the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz by an American warplane, Gen. John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, has appointed a two-star general from another command to conduct an independent investigation, his office said in a statement on Saturday.

[snip]

A spokesman for General Campbell, Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, said an assessment team had “determined that the reports of civilian casualties were credible.” The investigation, which will be conducted by three senior officers outside General Campbell’s command, will be led by Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman and supported by two brigadier generals.

General Campbell, also the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said: “My intent is to disclose the findings of the investigation once it is complete. We will be forthright and transparent and we will hold ourselves accountable for any mistakes made.”

Which came — now that I re-read the report of this — at the same moment when the Afghans made it clear their investigation into how they lost Kunduz would not cover how they asked the Americans to bomb a hospital.

The comments from Afghan officials came without a clear investigation on their side. While they have said a nongovernmental fact-finding mission set up to investigate the fall of Kunduz to the Taliban on Sept. 28 would also look into the hospital bombing, it is now clear that the mandate does not extend that far.

“The mandate of the Kunduz fact-finding mission doesn’t cover events beyond Sept. 28,” said Amrullah Saleh, a former intelligence chief who is a leader of the mission. “The team focuses on finding reasons for failure in leadership, structures and resources management.”

So if it takes three weeks to investigate an attack on a hospital, did the Brigadier General who first investigated it discover after three weeks that they needed to stop the Afghans from telling their own side of the story, after which a higher ranking general conducted a new investigation without that information?

Normally, when you bring in higher ranking generals, it’s because the scope of the investigation newly includes people who rank at the same level as the original investigating officer; but here, the guy who got disciplined is a captain [one report says he is a major], so not high ranking enough to require a two-star.

And if that investigation too three weeks, it would have ended November 14, 11 days before they released the report. Which if you hadn’t already figured out was a deliberate attempt to bury the report in the pre-holiday rush, should now.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

25 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    Stars & Stripes
    Lying in the military is common, Army War College study says

    The new study found that many Army officers have become “ethically numb” in the face of overwhelming demands and the need to put their reputations on the line to verify that all required standards and training requirements have been met.

    Strategic Studies Institute Study:
    Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession

    Untruthfulness is surprisingly common in the U.S. military even though members of the profession are loath to admit it. Further, much of the deception and dishonesty that occurs in the profession of arms is actually encouraged and sanctioned by the military institution. . . It takes remarkable courage and candor for leaders to admit the gritty shortcomings and embarrassing frailties of the military as an organization in order to better the military as a profession. Such a discussion, however, is both essential and necessary for the health of the military profession.

    • orionATL says:

      public lying by senior american military officers is an approved military strategy.

      it is called by the acronym “mildec”.

      it has been greatly expanded beyond itsblegitimate use on the battlefield, and now includes deceiving the media of any nation whatsoever as well as the american public.

  2. orionATL says:

    “would the u.s. play a willing dupe for an ally…?”

    no the u.s. would not.

    what the u.s. military would do, based on their record since 2002, is bomb a hospital with taliban patients or warriors inside –

    does this remind you of anything, e.g., the turks shooting helpless parachuting russian pilots, the isil cutting an alowhaite woman’s bodies in half and hanging each half from a different tree –

    and then use the afghans as an excuse,

    and then hide everything in an investigations game of which shell is the pea under.

    moral for me, as i’ve said before:

    the u.s. military often lacks professional discipline

    (as does the american local police force, and probably in part as a consequence of the military’s lack of discipline).

  3. Ed Walker says:

    I read the NYT article, which is actually just Reuters. It is not believable. EW thinks the story is probably true, but the claim about the failed comm gear is incredible. Here’s the Reuters language:

    According to the U.S. investigation, U.S. forces had meant to target a different building in the city and were led off-track by a technical error in their aircraft’s mapping system that initially directed them to an empty field.

    So they see an empty field, which means they knew their systems weren’t working properly. Then we get this:

    The U.S. forces then looked for a target that was visually similar to the one they had originally sought – the former National Directorate of Security headquarters in Kunduz, which they believed was occupied by insurgents.

    But the technical problem was supposedly the distance from the target. How were they supposed to do a visual identification, especially at night, when they knew they were out of position? So then we get this:

    The grid location of the AC-130 aircraft that attacked the hospital eventually identified the correct target building. In addition, there was no hostile enemy activity at the MSF building, Campbell said, but the U.S. attack continued.

    How did that happen? Did the crew not know about the failure? Then how did we get a correction?
    .
    I don’t believe a single word of this hogwash. These people are liars, just like the cops in Chicago who lied and covered up for the cop who killed Laquan McDonald

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think Campbell’s story is true.

      I think it is deceiving. I think the Afghans had every intention of hitting the hospital, in part to flush out the Taliban inside (include one potential ISI advisor). But the first thing that happened is they disappeared any real Afghan investigation, and instead just got Ghani (who owes his rule and probably his life to the US) to find a small number of warm bodies who would lie about Afghan intent.

      I think it is deceiving about how that was allowed to happen. I think it likely the “misfunction”on the plan involved “turning comms system off.” That would explain both why no one was able to stop them but also why they managed to pretend not deliberately hit the hospital. My question then becomes, did they do it before the flight, which would entail knowing they were going to hit a target that was impermissible (in which case it looks deliberate from the US and Afghan standpoint) or did they invent a misfunction after the fact, sort of like Jose Rodriguez did with the torture tapes.

      But once you have that misfunction, then the timing discrepancy becomes critical because you’re largely relying on the word of people who arranged such a misfunction and face war crimes charges if the timeline doesn’t look better.

      I also think, however, that when MSF says the attack lasted an hour, they may be counting the time the Afghan SOF (Which surely must include the US SOF, given that we now admit they were actively fighting) went to the hospital to capture the Taliban being treated there, including that rumored ISI guy. That detail totally disappears from the US narrative (in part because it has been attributed it exclusively to the Afghans at this point, and their investigation has been deep sixed).

      • orionATL says:

        i am condfident all this soldierely deceit is precisely because war crimes and u.s. crimes charges are viable, just as with the al-awlaki and bin-laden assassinations, torture, and police deceit over extra judicial killings of citzens by their police protectors as ed walker comments).

        i am confident the u.s. generals’ response is being micromanaged by dod lawyers just as are events surrounding police executions and as the criminal misdeeds of corporate pashas like don blakenship and jamie dimon are managed by lawyerly lying and the calculated deceit of the “critical event” p.r. teams that service corporate, university, and political malfactors.

  4. Ed Walker says:

    NYT has a later story that I missed: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/26/world/asia/afghanistan-kunduz-hospital-airstrike.html
    .
    The crucial difference is that the commander explicitly says the whole problem was the airship and the Special Forces Captain on the ground who has been “suspended”, and that higher-ups bear no responsibility. That is just as incomprehensible. The story is that the gunship video feeds to higher-ups were not working. The higher-ups did not take any action. But that’s cool.
    .
    The article makes several of the points Marcy makes.

  5. Kitt says:

    Given that the investigation has been shown, as expected, to be not only not at all credible, but also that they have clearly “deep sixed” the Afghan investigation all together, which would be a crucially important segment of the investigation, to whom do we turn now to press and press and press some more, until success, for the independent investigation to be launched?

  6. haarmeyer says:

    I keep seeing one thing in all this. No matter how many screw ups the military made, and how much detail we go into, it stands glaringly obvious that at those last moments, when, because of all the failures, the AC-130 was relying on sight, a protective emblem on the roof of the hospital could have saved 30 lives and all of this anguish.

    What we’re not hearing in the MSF rendition of the “war crime” is that for the “gross negligence” to really be a war crime, that symbol would have had to be there (Rome Statute Art. 8(e)(ii)). I’m not saying they should have done it so they would have had a case, I’m saying the law reads like that because with a protective emblem clearly displayed, those in the fight can see it’s a building they should not target. Those emblems are prescribed in international law for a reason, and they don’t include a blank roof, they don’t include the organization’s logo (unless they happen to be the Red Cross or Red Crescent), they include a large red cross, red crescent or red crystal clearly displayed so that anyone aiming at the building can see it and turn away.

    I’m so disappointed that even after this attack and the subsequent one in Yemen which had the same problem, that no one from Joanne Liu on down in MSF has come forward to advocate a change in policy and procedure.

    Negligence is never a war crime, war crimes require mens rea. It’s a violation of the UCMJ, though, and can be prosecuted as such.

    • orionATL says:

      i am in no position to contest your detailed claims aboit intl law; your argument is useful to hear, but
      .

      but the dod in the person of these general named is not concocting these deceits simply as a military exercise. they are seriously concerned about serious illegality.

      they are, doubtless, also concerned about appearances. but the appearances horse is out of the barn – the story of a u.s. special forces bombing a hospital and straffing fleeing persons will have the same legs as the story of the turks straffing pilots hanging by their parachutes in the air.

      soldiers’ professional discipline is thus replaced by mildec, by generals’ lawyerly lying.

      i will also say, haarmyer, that your professed dissappointment, twice repeated here in recent days, in which you clearly lay the fault for the americam bombing of a hospital on the msf for, for christ’s sake, on not having hung the right colored cloth on the roof,

      has the smell, yes the smell, haarmeyer, of croccadile tears and mildec.

      • haarmeyer says:

        Okay, admission on my part I have on idea what you mean by “mildec”. However, I do get the feeling that you think I’m blaming the tragedy solely on MSF? I’m not. But as a “honored supporter” of MSF, and as someone who knows more than a few MSF veterans and trades information with them, and as someone who does both health care and IHL myself for another organization, I am still extremely disappointed that they did not use protective emblems, continue not to use them, and pretend that their own logo is one.

        This case becomes one, as even MSF has said, of gross negligence, and you can take it to the bank that gross negligence is not prosecutable as a war crime. Not today, not 50 years ago, not 50 years from now. It is prosecutable, it’s a serious crime when there is massive loss of life, and I fully expect and support that people will be court martialed for it. It isn’t a war crime so you can stop pretending that anyone who says it isn’t is someone you can condemn out of hand.

        There are 4 principles of the laws of armed conflict that are supreme when it comes to making sure the framework is effective and when it comes to deciding on war crimes and grave breaches. Distinction and proportionality are intended to protect civilians and people out of the fight. Military necessity and unnecessary suffering protect those who are in the fight.

        Of all of them, there are many arguments, from all points of view from JAG officers to the ICRC, to MSF to the various International Criminal Tribunals, that the most precious of these is distinction. The duty of combatants to distinguish protected people and objects from lawful targets is paramount, but it doesn’t come with zero effort on the part of those being aimed at. Soldiers and other fighters are supposed to clearly distinguish themselves. Protected buildings and medical and humanitarian workers are supposed to clearly display protective emblems.

        You can’t complain that soldiers shoot at the wrong target if you refuse — and MSF doesn’t seem to be changing their practices no matter how many times they get targeted so I do mean refuse — to fly protective emblems and make yourself visibly a medical or humanitarian location or person in the conflict zone. Since I have friends who have and will go to work for them, since I’m one of their longtime contributors, and since I really believe in them and their integrity and courage, I find it quite difficult to understand why they put their workers in danger unnecessarily, and do want an explanation for it.

        If that offends you, I’m sorry.

        • orionATL says:

          “if that offends you, i’m sorry.”

          what offends me is your using lawyerly punctilliousness in an attempt to deflect criticism of u.s. military action at kunduz hospital.

          to crtiticise msf for flying the “wrong” flag is to hold msf to partial blame for what was quite clearly, given its history, a calculated military strike on a hospital,

          a hospital which was on the u.s. military’s own no-strike list.

          in short, if msf had put up buddhist prayer flags or no flags, the u.s. military should never have shot up that hospital.

          go pedal your unfeeling lawyerly punctilliousness elsewhere.

          an appropriate venue for your criticisms would be msf itself.

          that you chose this venue instead raises questions about your motives.

        • orionATL says:

          re haarmeyer #21 –

          coincidentally, spoken precisely like a u.s. military lawyer would speak.

          on the other hand, i will say, quite genuinely, that i appreciate the details you provided about the law of war.

          i will also point out that there is a reason why the u.s. military command is jiggering its reports on why the kunduz hospital was attacked by an ac-130 and why survivors were gunned down as they fled the burning hospital. and that reason has nothing to do with flags on the roof during the night.

          incidentally, are the flags you favor supposed to be irridescent?

        • orionATL says:

          haarmeyer #20 –

          “… However, I do get the feeling that you think I’m blaming the tragedy solely on MSF? I’m not…”

          no, haarmeyer, i don’t think you are trying to blame the tragedy solely on msf.

          i think you are making a calculated, lawyerly effort to deflect criticism of the u.s. military’s action in torching the kunduz hospital and killing medical personnel and patients. that is what i think you are up to.

    • Avattoir says:

      This is about as lame as the several DoD dog-and-pony shows on this incident. Is that you, John? I’ve got the late Don Meredith behind this screen here: “If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, wouldn’t it be a Merry Christmas?”

  7. Don Bacon says:

    emptywheel on November 26, 2015 at 7:14 am In reply to Ed Walker
    I don’t think Campbell’s story is true.
    I think it is deceiving. I think the Afghans had every intention of hitting the hospital, in part to flush out the Taliban inside (include one potential ISI advisor).
    .
    Exactly right (as is her wont). The US military routinely destroys hospitals as I have evidenced before. The US targeted an MSF hospital in Yemen subsequent to Kunduz. Hospitals treat the enemy, is why. (And like cops — they do it because they can.) The Afghans initially had a cover story about rocket-firing, but I guess that disappeared b/c it probably wasn’t true.
    .
    from the files–
    Campbell, the U.S. general, said the airstrikes in Kunduz were carried out on behalf of Afghan forces under attack by Taliban fighters who had recently taken control of the city. Afghan officials have been quoted as saying that the militants had been firing rockets from inside the hospital compound.
    .
    So now they’ve hung it on the C130 crew. All those generals hanging around headquarters will go scot-free, as usual. The damage control, as described by orionATL in #9, has been a success. As I recall they have a new PR firm in Afghanistan now.

  8. Don Bacon says:

    It’s interesting that the SOF unit was involved in heavy combat for five days — U.S. SOF at the PCOP compound had been engaged in heavy fighting for nearly five consecutive days and nights — and that might be typical. Or not.
    .
    The last combat death in Afghanistan, as reported by the Pentagon, was two air force men killed in August while in a vehicle outside a camp, and a bit earlier in August an army sergeant killed by small arms fire in Kabul. Special Forces is carrying the load currently in Afghanistan. No SOF deaths in Afghanistan? They did report one recently in Iraq.

  9. P J Evans says:

    Lies and more lies from the people who claim to be capable of running a war; they apparently can’t run their own internal operations, without lies and more lies.

    Yeah, right the electronics happened to fail on that plane in a way that just happened to fuck up a raid. Does it happen often? Shouldn’t the aircrew have called it off when they discovered they couldn’t tell where they were?

    And I don’t believe the hospital wasn’t marked. MSF has shown every sign of being competent and professional.

    • masaccio says:

      Marcy pointed out to me that MSF says it had white flags and a red flag at the entrance to the trauma facility. http://kunduz.msf.org/pdf/20151030_kunduz_review_EN.pdf

      On Friday, two MSF flags were placed on the roof of the hospital, in addition to the existing flag that was being flown at the entrance to the Trauma Centre.

      The KTC was also one of the only buildings in the city that had full electricity from generator power on the night of the airstrikes.

      That implies that the flags were visible to the gunship, unless it was a lot farther away than it appears from the descriptions. MSF had given it’s coordinates to the US and there is no excuse for the crew.

    • haarmeyer says:

      The hospital was not properly marked, no matter what you think of MSF’s reputation. I think they have the highest reputation too, but neither in Afghanistan nor in Yemen were their hospitals properly marked. Red and white flags aren’t the symbol, red crescents or red crosses are. You don’t get to make up your own markings in war.

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