JUDY WOODRUFF: That was General John Campbell, USA commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, pledging the facts will come out about Friday’s deadly attack.
‘An air strike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck’.
Worldwide medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Sunday that it has withdrawn its staff from Kunduz and called for an independent investigation into the attack.
US President Barack Obama has expressed his condolences and said he would await the conclusions of an inquiry before making a definitive judgement.
Campbell said three investigations are underway and “if errors were committed, we’ll acknowledge them”.
Carter refused to speculate on what occurred but stressed that the United States would hold accountable “anybody responsible for doing something they shouldn’t have done”. The incident, which is being called a war crime by Doctors Without Borders, took center stage at the Pentagon this morning.
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 group said the main hospital building was “repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched”, implying that the U.S. strikes were aimed at a civilian medical facility. It was the only free trauma care hospital in northern Afghanistan, according to Doctors Without Borders. The one-hour attack killed 22 doctors, staff and patients including children.
Afghan forces backed by US airstrikes have been fighting to dislodge Taliban insurgents who overran Kunduz on Monday.
Twelve MSF staff members and 10 patients were killed when the hospital was hit on Saturday by a U.S. airstrike.
The Afghan government has been struggling to combat the Taliban since the USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation assumed support and training role by the end of 2014, which officially marked the end of their combat mission in the country.
MSF said it was disgusted by statements from a few Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack “over claims that members of the Taliban were present”. On Monday, reports said police and residents said that Afghan forces had regained control of most of the besieged city and a few shops in the centre of the provincial capital opened for the first time since it fell a week ago. Afghan officials also promised an investigation but defended the strike, saying Taliban fighters were inside the hospital shooting at American soldiers.
The NATO-led coalition has said it expects the results of a preliminary multinational investigation in the coming days.