The city of Kunduz in Afghanistan was one target of a U.S. airstrike based on it succumbing to Taliban control. The airstrike had been requested by Afghan troops under fire, but the alleged reason had been to protect U.S. ground forces as Pentagon officials had initially expressed (Lawrence).
Days after the airstrike commenced, a hospital run by the aid group Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz fell victim to the strike. Staff members and patients alike were killed and injured, amounting to a known 22 deaths and another 37 wounded in the crossfire (Botelho, Joseph, Mullen).
This tragedy was deemed “collateral damage” by the U.S. military, an unintentional incident that wounded and cost innocent people their lives. The U.S. general regarded the attack as a “mistake,” (Lawrence) making the lives lost seem inconsequential to the bigger task at hand of liberating Kunduz along with other cities of Taliban rule.
President Obama has apologized to Doctors Without Borders as well as the president of Afghanistan and promised a full investigation but the aid group has qualified the incident as an ‘attack on the Geneva Conventions,’ (Botelho, Joseph, Mullen) the convention concerning treaties “on the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war and soldiers who are otherwise rendered hors de combat, or incapable of fighting” (“Geneva Conventions”). Obama assured that the Department of Defense ‘would provide a transparent, thorough and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident’ but the organization is “urging an independent investigation by a never-before-used international commission --[The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission]” (Botelho, Joseph, Mullen).
A possible cause to the attack may be due to the type of aircraft used, an AC-130 gunship, wherein it relies on a “compass heading” and “visual targeting” rather than “a map coordinate to engage its target” as jets use (Gibbons-Neff). Doctors Without Borders claimed it had supplied its map coordinates to rule out as to why the hospital was targeted.
A U.S. close-air support pilot explained that the craft “specifically has to be guided onto the target by a force on the ground and will fire only after identifying friendly and enemy forces.” The aircraft only operates in the dark with a “crew of roughly a dozen [using] a number of infrared sensors and night vision devices to see and engage targets on the ground” (Gibbons-Neff). Such factors could have contributed to the tragedy but further investigations will proceed in hopes of identifying the cause of the attack on the hospital. But determining the cause cannot be the only measure to be taken. The effectivity of both the airstrike and the ability of “limited U.S. force in Afghanistan [to] work with Afghan troops,” (Gibbons-Neff) leading the government to reconsider the number of U.S. troops to keep in Afghanistan all must be addressed.