U.S. says “Human Error” to blame in deadly hospital bombing in Kudunz
WASHINGTON — An initial United States investigation into an airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that left 30 dead, was caused by “human error” and “technical failures,” according to a Department of Defense statement.
Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan spoke via teleconference about the investigation Friday.
“This was a tragic, but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error,” Campbell said.
Human error, system failures and procedural missteps were said to have what led a United States AC-130 to bomb the hospital, which was “several hundred meters away where there were reports of combatants,” Campbell said.
On October 2, Afghanistan Special Forces requested support to clear the National Directorate of Security headquarters building, which they believed to be occupied by insurgents.
An AC-130 was launched 69 minutes early due to the call being deemed an emergency, Campbell said. During the flight the onboard electronic systems malfunctioned, preventing the aircraft from transmitting video, sending or receiving emails or to receive electronic messages, according to Campbell.
Once the aircraft was in the region, they believed they had been targeted by a missile, causing them to change their flight pattern.
“This degraded the accuracy of certain targeting systems which later contributed to the misidentification of the trauma center,” Campbell said.
The commander provided the crew with the coordinates of the NDS building but due to the new flight path the targeting system correlated with an open field “over 300 meters from the NDS headquarters,” Campbell said. The aircrew then located the nearest large building they felt fit the description of the NDS building which was the hospital.
According to Campbell and the report, there were times when the mistake could have been corrected but were not. For example, the report found the aircrew noticed no hostile activity around the trauma center, Campbell said.
At one point the aircrew relayed their coordinates to their operational headquarters stating they were about to engage the building. Headquarters did not have a no-strike list with them, which the hospital was currently on, according to Campbell.
The strike began at 2:08 a.m. and 12 minutes later special operations forces received a call from the hospital stating they were under attack. However the strike continued and it wasn’t until 17 minutes later they had realized their mistake and the AC-130 had already ceased firing.
Campbell assured reporters that the United States will “take appropriate administrative and disciplinary action through a process that is fair and thoroughly considers the available evidence.”
Christopher Stokes, the general director of MSF released a statement saying the statement raises “more questions than answers.”
“It is shocking that an attack can be carried out when US forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a no-strike list, and have malfunctioning communications systems,” Strokes said in his statement.
The organization is continuing to call for an independent investigation into the attack.
A NATO and Afghan partner combined civilian casualty assessment team is also conducting an investigation, according to Campbell.