US Disciplines at Least 12 for Airstrike on Hospital

Strike on Doctors Without Borders hospital a 'tragic but avoidable accident'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 17, 2016 9:34 AM CDT
US Disciplines at Least 12 for Airstrike on Civilian Hospital
In this Oct. 16, 2015, file photo, an employee of Doctors Without Borders walks inside the charred remains of the organization's hospital after it was hit by a US airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan.   (Najim Rahim)

More than a dozen US military personnel have been disciplined, but face no criminal charges, for errors that led to the aerial attack on a civilian hospital that killed 42 people in northern Afghanistan last year, say US defense officials speaking anonymously. Per the AP, the officials say the disciplinary process is nearly complete and is derived from a military investigation of the Oct. 3, 2015, attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz by a US Air Force special ops AC-130 gunship, one of the most lethal in the US arsenal. The punishments, which have not been publicly announced, are largely administrative. Some actions, such as letters of reprimand, are enough to effectively end chances for further promotion; the military has previously said some personnel were suspended from their duties. The disciplined include both officers and enlisted personnel, but none are generals.

The attack, which the medical charity has called "relentless and brutal," was unleashed as US military advisers were helping Afghan forces retake Kunduz from the Taliban. The US military's outline of what happened: The crew of the AC-130 had been dispatched to hit a Taliban command center in a different building, 450 yards away from the hospital. However, hampered by targeting sensor issues, the crew relied on a physical description that led them to begin firing at the hospital, though they saw no hostile activity there. A separate US report obtained last fall by the AP said the AC-130 fired 211 shells at the hospital over 29 minutes before commanders realized the mistake. Army Gen. John Campbell, the top US commander in Afghanistan at the time, has called it a "tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error." A DWB rep says the charity won't comment on disciplinary actions until the Pentagon communicates its decisions directly to the group or makes a public announcement. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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